U.S. evacuates 120 diplomatic staff, citizens from South Sudan

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – American diplomatic personnel and private citizens plus other nationals were flown out of Juba, South Sudan aboard three U.S. planes on Wednesday as fighting between military factions continued in the country, the State Department said.

Two C-130 planes coming from Djibouti and a chartered plane flew a total 120 evacuees out of the South Sudan capital, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a press release. Harf said additional flights are being arranged for other Americans who wish to leave South Sudan.

The C-130s dropped the evacuees in Nairobi, Kenya, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.

The U.S. embassy in Juba has suspended its operations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Susan Page spoke to South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Wednesday to discuss concern about the continued violence, increasing death toll, and growing humanitarian challenges. Page also urged the government to ensure protection of the rights of arrested coup suspects.

Kiir have accused dismissed vice president Riek Machar of trying to overthrow him Sunday with the help of soldiers loyal to him. The fighting around Juba since then killed at least 500 people, mostly soldiers, and wounded 700 others.

Machar on Wednesday denied the allegations and said Kiir’s presidential guards started the fighting, which has spread to the town of Bor, capital of eastern Jonglei state, and in Torit, capital of Eastern Equatoria on Wednesday. Bor Mayor Nicholas Nhial Majak claimed troops loyal to breakaway army commander Peter Gadet had raided the town and called for troops to restore order.

The South Sudan Red Cross Society counted 19 deaths in the fighting in Bor. Joe Contreras, spokesman for the UN Mission in South Sudan, said 1,000 civilians took refuge in his camp with more coming in.

The fighting also forced some 20,000 people to take refuge in the United Nations mission in Juba.

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