Sudan conflict: Brit who lived by embassy left without help
An 85-year-old British citizen in Sudan was shot and injured by snipers and his wife then died of starvation despite repeated calls for assistance made to the nearby British embassy in Sudan, their family has told BBC News.
Abdalla Sholgami lived with his disabled 80-year-old wife, Alaweya Rishwan, just over the road from the UK's diplomatic mission in Khartoum - an area that saw some of the fiercest fighting at the start of the conflict last month.
But the London hotel owner was never offered support to travel from their home to the airfield where evacuation flights departed from, even when a British military team was sent to evacuate diplomatic staff from the mission, the family says.
Instead, the elderly couple, who had no food or water, were told to make their own way to the airfield 40km (25 miles) outside Khartoum - which would have meant crossing a warzone.
The UK foreign office acknowledged to the BBC that the Sholgamis' case was "extremely sad" but added that "our ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited and we cannot provide in-person support within Sudan".
Only diplomatic staff and their families were given assistance to reach the evacuation points. All other British citizens were told to make their own way.
The violence in Khartoum was triggered by a power struggle between former allies - the leaders of the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Fighting began on 15 April, and the couple's family says that every avenue was used to try and get assistance from soon after that date, including personal phone calls to the embassy.
On 22 April a family member emailed a British MP in an effort to get the appeals for help answered.
That night, the embassy was evacuated but Mr Sholgami and his wife were not given any assistance.
A further call from the family to the UK foreign office's Sudan hotline was made some time on the 24 or 25 April. A voice note recording of the conversation heard by the BBC indicates that this was a follow-up inquiry.
On 3 May, Britain's final evacuation flight took off from Sudan. In an exchange of emails with the ambassador on that day, the family was told to get the couple to the departure point themselves but this was not possible because of the fighting.
At some point - and it is not clear exactly when - Mr Sholgami, faced with starvation and with no water, left his home and his wife to find help.
After escaping his house he was shot three times - in his hand, chest and lower back - by snipers, just a few metres from the UK embassy. With no hospitals functioning where he was, Mr Sholgami was then taken to a family member in another part of Khartoum and survived.
But it was impossible for any family members to reach his wife in an area that was surrounded by snipers. She was left to fend for herself.
On 10 May, Alaweya Rishwan was found dead inside the home by an official from the Turkish embassy. Her body remains in the house, unburied.
There had been no further word from the UK's foreign office until it sent a message this week to the BBC: "The ongoing military conflict means Sudan remains dangerous… the UK is taking a leading role in the diplomatic efforts to secure peace in Sudan," it said.
Mr Sholgami's granddaughter, Azhaar, grew up in Khartoum and knows how close the embassy is to their house. She is distraught.
"I was informed they had 100 troops who came and evacuated their staff. They could not cross the road? I'm still very disappointed in them," she told the BBC.
"What happened to my grandparents was a crime against humanity, not only by the RSF, not only by the [Sudanese army], but by the British embassy, because they were the only ones that could have prevented this from happening to my grandparents," she said.
Mr Sholgami's son, who's a doctor, had to operate on his father's wounds in Khartoum, without anaesthetic.
That is because only a handful of Khartoum's 88 hospitals remain open after weeks of fighting, according to Sudan's Doctors Union. Hospitals have often been targeted by both sides during the conflict.
Mr Sholgami managed to escape to Egypt. He is now on his way back to London for further medical treatment.
Reporting by Lara El Gibaly, Vanessa Bowles, Mamdouh Akbiek, Ahmed ElShamy and Nawal al-Maghafi
In the UK, you can see more on this on Newsnight on BBC2 from 22:30 on Friday