Clashes spread in S Sudan, US evacuates diplomats

Clashes spread in S Sudan, US evacuates diplomats

Over 500 including civilians feared killed in fighting pitting troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against soldiers who support his former vice-president Riek Machar.



By (Agencies)

Published: Fri 20 Dec 2013, 1:48 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:22 PM

The Pentagon flew 120 US diplomats and others out of South Sudan on Wednesday even as deadly clashes between rival army factions spread to distant areas from capital Juba on Wednesday.

Defence Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren said two C-130 aircraft picked up employees from the US Embassy in the capital of Juba, along with foreign diplomats and some US citizens, and flew them to neighbouring Kenya. The State Department said an additional group of Americans and third-country nationals was evacuated in a private charter.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US has continued to urge all Americans to leave South Sudan and will work to help arrange transportation for them, taking into account the security conditions and the availability of commercial flights.

She said US ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, met on Wednesday with President Salva Kiir in Juba to express concern about the ongoing violence, rising death toll and the widening humanitarian problems. Page also raised concern about the arrests of several opposition members and called on the government to make sure their rights are protected.

“The United States is deeply troubled by the recent fighting in South Sudan,” Harf said in a statement. “We call on the country’s political leaders to refrain from any action that could escalate an already tense situation or fuel the violence. It is absolutely critical that political differences be resolved by peaceful and democratic means.”

The Defence Department said a small US military force remains on the ground in Juba to augment embassy security.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said deadly clashes between rival army factions are spreading in with at least 19 civilians killed in one high-risk town.

Hundreds are already feared killed in the capital Juba in fighting pitting troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against soldiers who support his former vice-president Riek Machar.

South Sudan’s Red Cross reported at least 19 civilians killed on Wednesday in new battles in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

The deaths were reported after clashes between factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) at a military camp in Bor, Nesirky said.

He added that “tensions seem to be on the rise in Unity and Upper Nile states.”

UN officials in South Sudan have also reported fighting in the Equatorial State capital of Torit.

Kiir is an ethnic Dinka while Machar is from the rival Nuer group, and UN officials and diplomats have raised concerns that the battle between them could become a wider ethnic conflict.

Jonglei has long been a centre of the ethnic tensions between the rival groups. Thousands have been killed in unrest in Jonglei since South Sudan, the world’s newest state, became independent in 2011.

Nesirky said 800 people have sought refuge at a UN compound in Bor.

Almost 20,000 are crowded into two UN missions in Juba where there are concerns over water supplies and sanitation.


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