Update December 21st – U.S. military aircraft have been hit by rebel gunfire while attempting to evacuate American citizens from the town of Bor. As South Sudan continues to fall into violence, dispatched American military forces have come under fire. Four U.S. military personnel were reported as wounded; one is reported to be in critical condition.
The town of Bor has seen some of the worst violence in the region this week as South Sudan government troops and rebels battle for control. U.S. military’s Africa Command released a statement saying the aircraft was engaged in an attempt to evacuate U.S. citizens from the town.
The statement from Africa Command mentioned that the U.S. craft had taken fire from the ground while approaching the area. The aircraft were diverted to Kampala, Uganda then to Nairobi, Kenya where injured military soldiers received medical treatment. The number of U.S. aircraft involved was unclear.
Original article – President Barak Obama has dispatched a military contingency to South Sudan as rebel forces are engaged in a high-pitched military action. The world’s newest country has fallen into violence with reported deaths of U.N. Peacekeepers on the ground. Rebels from the second largest ethnic group stormed a United Nations base in South Sudan’s Jonglei state on Thursday. Violence broke out Sunday and has claimed the lives of at least 500 people. The U.N. base attack has left at least three Peacekeepers dead.
The violence began when the South Sudan president Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of mounting a coup. The violence began in the capital of Juba, but has now spread to other states bringing the U.N. base into the fire fight. Government officials report that the town of Bor some 200 kilometers north of the capital is now under rebel control. Colonel Phillip Aguer stated that Bor was being heavily shelled while the Mayor Mhial Majak confirmed the town was in the hands of the rebels led by Colonel Machar.
However, Machar stated in an interview with Sudan Tribune that no coup had occurred and he denied Kiir’s claims of his involvement. Machar said there was a misunderstanding between military divisions. According to witnesses, the rebels were targeting the ethnic Dinka group and the Dinka were targeting the ethnic Nuer group. Additionally, Human Rights Watch cited reports that South Sudanese soldiers had fired on highly populated areas and targeted citizens based on ethnicity. Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, stated that the killings at Juba may only be the tip of the iceberg. While Michael Lueth, Information Minister, mentioned Wednesday that people from different states and tribes were rising up against the government and the government was fighting back.
However, it was not possible to independently verify the reports of ethnic fighting. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that he was deeply concerned over the violence and that human rights abuses and killings were being fueled by ethnic tensions. But the government insists that the clashes are over power and politics and nothing more.
The violence has prompted African nations to send delegations of mediators to the area. The African Union stated the team was made up of high level officials from the surrounding countries.
As the violence in South Sudan spreads, the safety of U.N. personnel and U.S. interests have become a concern.
President Obama mobilized American military forces into South Sudan, stating that their mission was not time based defined at the moment. “The force will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.” Obama said. He further announced that their mission was to protect U.S. citizens and property. The U.S. government has ordered all non-emergency personnel out of the country and has warned any U.S. citizens in South Sudan to leave the country or prepare for their own safety and security. The U.S. suspended all normal operations at the U.S. Embassy as South Sudan fell into violence, while dispatching military forces, but continues to take requests for assistance from U.S. citizens. On Wednesday the Pentagon reported that 120 U.S. diplomats and others had been flown out of the country.
By Anthony Clark