December 19, 2013

Americans, Brits evacuate South Sudan as ethnic violence spreads

South Sudan’s government admits to losing control of the capital of the country’s largest and most populous state, as hundreds are killed.

By Charlton Doki And Jason Straziuso
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A displaced family sits with their belongings after seeking refuge at a U.N. compound in Juba, South Sudan, Thursday. The world’s newest country, is threatened by rapidly escalating ethnic violence, as officials said Thursday that the government no longer controls the capital of its largest and most populous state.

The Associated Press

At the time, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six U.N. police advisers and two U.N. civilian employees were present at the base, as were about 30 South Sudanese who had sought shelter, according to the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The mission said it would dispatch aircraft early Friday to evacuate U.N. personnel who remain at the base.

South Sudan’s capital was mostly peaceful Thursday, and the government tried to assure the U.N. and foreign embassies “that civil tranquility has been fully restored.”

Countries such as the U.S., Britain, Italy and Germany continued to evacuate residents. A plane with a mechanical malfunction blocked the runway during the day, jamming up inbound and outbound flights.

The U.S. evacuation plane — the fourth group of Americans flown out in two days — was eventually able to take off heading for Kenya. “Runway clear. Wheels up,” the embassy said on Twitter. Two military flights and a charter took off on Wednesday. Britain’s evacuation plane landed in Uganda late Thursday.

The government said it lost control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, to forces loyal to Machar. Gunfire was reported early and late in the day, and the U.N. used four helicopters to transport 75 people — a mix of aid workers and U.N. staff — to Juba, said Challiss McDonough, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s World Food Program.

“We lost control of Bor to the rebellion,” said Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman.

Aguer said renegade officers wrested control of the town from loyalist forces. At least 19 civilians had been killed in Bor, said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, citing figures from the South Sudan Red Cross.

In oil-rich Unity state, fighting broke out in oil fields on Wednesday and Thursday, said Mabek Lang De Mading, the state’s deputy governor. He said five people died Wednesday and 11 on Thursday.

Foreign ministers from neighboring countries Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti traveled to South Sudan to try and diffuse the crisis.

Human Rights Watch said Thursday that South Sudanese soldiers fired indiscriminately in highly populated areas of Juba earlier in the week and targeted people for their ethnicity.

Citing witnesses and victims, the group reported that “soldiers specifically targeted people from the Nuer ethnic group.” In some cases, the group added, the Dinka may have been targeted by Nuer soldiers.

An estimated 20,000 people have sought refuge at two U.N. compounds in Juba and another 14,000 in Bor. U.N. officials warned of a humanitarian crisis.

Deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson said in New York on Thursday that the U.N. will do its best to protect those who have sought refuge. “Clearly, civilians are in danger,” said Eliasson.

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