UK Sudan rescue flights arrive in Cyprus

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Two flights carrying the first British civilians evacuated from Sudan have arrived in Cyprus, with more expected Wednesday.

The first passenger plane belonging to Britain’s Royal Air Force with about 39 civilians on board landed at Larnaca airport Tuesday night, said a foreign ministry spokesperson.

This was followed by a second rescue mission, with Britons given the chance to fly to the UK on charter flights from Larnaca Airport later.

A third RAF flight departed Khartoum Wednesday and is expected at Larnaca airport, bringing the total to around 250.

British troops are attempting to get UK nationals out of the East African country during a 72-hour ceasefire.

These are spread across the three flights, with the third due into Cyprus later Wednesday.

Flights are set to continue throughout the day, the spokesperson added.

Trapped British nationals had been told to make their own way to an airstrip near the Sudanese capital Khartoum, once it was clear the ceasefire that began at midnight local time on Monday was holding.

Cypriots airlifted

Following a United Kingdom request, Cyprus said it activated a humanitarian rescue mechanism to evacuate third-country civilians through the island from Sudan.

On the British flights out of Sudan were 10 Cypriots evacuated from Sudan

Minister of Foreign Affairs Constantinos Kombos, on Twitter, expressed warm thanks to his British counterpart, James Cleverly, for his country’s help.

An RAF military plane is used to pick up British passport holders from the airstrip and fly them to Larnaca Airport, where their documentation is checked.

The RAF plane then refuels before returning to Sudan to pick up the next batch waiting at the airstrip.

The Foreign Office said its aim is for evacuees to be in Cyprus for less than 48 hours before they can take up the option of flying to the UK.

Among the first evacuees to arrive in Cyprus were families with young children, some of them newborns, who were greeted by the Cypriot Red Cross, which provided food and toiletries.

Speaking to the BBC at Larnaca Airport, passengers said they were delighted to be going home, but reaching the flight had been difficult because of limited UK government help.

One man said he had to take a bus with his young family and had never been so scared.

Around 120 British troops are supporting the evacuation at the Wadi Saeedna airstrip.

Downing Street said the British military would defend the airfield in Sudan but clarified efforts would be made to avoid “active engagement” with other forces.

Clashes between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group began on 15 April.

Hundreds of people have since died, and thousands have been injured in the conflict.

Airlifting large numbers of people out of Sudan has been complicated by major airports becoming battlegrounds, and movement out of the capital has been perilous.