Obama threatens action in South Sudan
The threat came after four U.S. servicemen were attacked in South Sudan
U.S. President Barack Obama threatened on Monday that he will take further action in South Sudan if necessary after U.S. forces were attacked there, amid rising concern that the recently-established country could slide into civil war.
“As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel and property, including our embassy, in South Sudan,” Obama wrote in a letter to Congress.
On Saturday four U.S. servicemen were wounded when their planes were fired at in a rebel-held area.
The attack underlined the increasingly dangerous situation in South Sudan, where at least one U.N. base has also come under attack in recent days -- with the deaths of two Indian peacekeepers and possibly dozens of civilians.
U.S. citizens were safely evacuated on Sunday from Bor to Juba in South Sudan, the State Department said.
“This morning, the United States - in coordination with the United Nations and in consultation with the South Sudanese government - safely evacuated American citizens from Bor, South Sudan. U.S. citizens and citizens from our partner nations were flown from Bor to Juba on U.N. and U.S. civilian helicopters,” the State Department said in a statement.
Fighting has been raging in South Sudan for a week, after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar has denied this, and has accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals.
The fighting has left hundreds dead and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing for protection in U.N. bases or to safer areas of the country, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011 but has been blighted by ethnic divisions, corruption and poverty.
The fighting has both ethnic and political dimensions, as troops loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battle forces backing Machar, a Nuer.
Foreign governments, including those of the U.S., Britain, Uganda and Kenya, have been organizing special evacuation flights to pull out their nationals.
President Obama warned against continued fighting in South Sudan.
“Any effort to seize power through the use of military force will result in the end of longstanding support from the United tates and the international community,” the White House said.
South Sudan's government meanwhile acknowledged that much of Unity State, the country's main oil-producing area, was in the hands of the rebels.
Crucial oil fields
Forces loyal to Machar were also still in control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state and situated about 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Juba, although South Sudan's army spokesman said government troops were advancing.
“Bor is still under the control of Peter Gadet forces. The SPLA is still moving towards Bor but have not yet captured Bor,” Sudan People's Liberation Army spokesman Philip Aguer told AFP.
A local official in Bentiu -- the rebel-held capital of Unity State -- said the area was littered with bodies following the fall of the town, which was prompted by the defection of a top government commander.
“There are so many bodies, over a hundred not yet buried,” the local official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
Army spokesman Aguer confirmed that “Unity State is currently divided, with the SPLA and the loyalists to the government on one side and those who are supporting Riek Machar on the other.”
“We are not in control of Bentiu and we don’t know how many people are wounded and how many people are killed,” Aguer said.
Oil production accounts for more than 95 percent of the country's fledgling economy, and the sector has been hit with oil companies also flying out their employees after the death of at least five South Sudanese oil workers Wednesday.
Juba's ambassador to Khartoum, however, insisted on Sunday that oil facilities had not been damaged and oil was still flowing.
Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have fled their homes, many seeking shelter at UN bases amid warnings the impoverished nation was on the brink of all-out civil war.
“I am afraid. I just can't imagine being forced to become refugees again,” said Susan Nakiden, a South Sudanese woman among the thousands sheltering at a U.N. base in Juba. The mother of three said she had already been forced to flee her home during the Sudanese civil war.
- U.N. evacuates non-critical staff in South Sudan
- South Sudan oil flow via Sudan unaffected by fighting, says envoy
- AU calls for South Sudan Christmas truce
- South Sudan: Civil war looms?
- Rebels said to control some South Sudan oil fields
- Sudan fears over South Sudan fighting
- Obama: South Sudan violence must end
- U.N. says peacekeeping base in South Sudan attacked