Desperation in Sudan as people 'kill pets because they fear starvation'

More than 4,000 Brits may still be stuck in war-torn Sudan, a government minister has said, as countries frantically try to evacuate their citizens before the violence escalates further.

Shortages of water, food and electricity have meant the situation in the North African country is growing more perilous by the minute, with some UK nationals saying they feel ‘abandoned’.

There have been reports of some in the country killing their pets because they are worried they will starve, less than two weeks after major clashes broke out between the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces.

On Sunday night, diplomats and their families were flown out of the country following a daring SAS-led operation in the capital Khartoum, which was described by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as ‘complex and rapid’.

But reports of communication issues between the British government and UK citizens have led to concerns that no lessons have been learned from 2021’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said the official advice for people still in the country was to shelter and await further information.

He told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘The situation is absolutely desperate and a ceasefire is what is required.

‘And the only advice that Britain can give to people is to stay indoors because that is the safe option.’

He defended the decision to prioritise embassy staff for evacuation, saying there was ‘a very specific threat to the diplomatic community’.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had earlier also emphasised the need for a ceasefire, saying the government was ‘severely limited in our ability to provide assistance to British nationals’ until the fighting paused or stopped.

Alicia Kearns, the Tory chairwoman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that ‘there is no imminent sign of a ceasefire’ and the focus needed to shift to getting the ‘3,000, 4,000 plus’ Britons out.

She said: ‘The reality is we have to get British nationals out.

‘If, however, there was to be no evacuation because it’s too dangerous … then we have a moral obligation to tell British nationals as soon as possible that that is the judgment that has been made because they then need to be able to make their own decisions.’

Chairman of the Commons Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood said the UK could use its ‘influence’ to secure a pause in the conflict.

On the BBC’s World At One programme, he said: ‘We must lean into this and we must use our influence to speak to both side, making it very clear that there needs to be a 12-hour ceasefire so we can get our people out.’

Some have already started privately organising their own escapes.

William, a UK citizen in Sudan, told the BBC he had to leave Khartoum on a bus arranged by his employer because ‘we’ve had absolutely nothing but nonsense from the government’.

Iman Abugarga, a British woman who has been sheltering in Khartoum, told The Telegraph she feels ‘absolutely’ abandoned by Mr Sunak’s administration, adding that she considered their management of the situation ‘shameful’.

Responding to claims that one UK national had only received two computer-generated from the government telling him to stay inside, Ms Kearns said: ‘So that would suggest that no lessons have been learned since Afghanistan, and I have urged the government to make sure they are communicating regularly with British nationals.’

A spokesman for the prime minister said he ‘wouldn’t accept that’, saying ‘significant lessons’ were learned from the evacuation from Kabul.

The UK’s airlift from the Afghan capital, named Operation Pitting, transported more than 15,000 people to safety in the biggest British evacuation since the Second World War.

A spokeswoman for animal welfare organisation Four Paws told it was in touch with a Sudanese organisation to evaluate when they might be able to help in the country.

She said: ‘Due to the unpredictability of this severe and deadly situation, Four Paws is currently not able to provide direct help for animals on-site.

‘We are in contact with Sudan Animal Rescue, with whom we worked together in the past, and will closely monitor further developments in the country.’

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