Obama may 'take further action' to protect Americans in South Sudan

Wounded civilians from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state and said to be the scene of fierce clashes between government troops and rebels, are assisted after being transported by U.N. helicopter to Juba, South Sudan, on Dec. 22. UNMISS via AP

After the safe relocation of Americans from Bor, South Sudan, to the nation’s capital of Juba on Sunday, President Barack Obama said he may “take further action” to keep Americans safe in the midst of escalating violence and fears of possible civil war in the newly formed African country.

Three hundred and eighty U.S. officials and citizens have already been transported out of South Sudan in addition to 300 residents of other countries, Jen Psaki, the U.S. State Department's spokesperson, said in a statement.

Obama said in a letter that 46 U.S. military personnel were sent to Bor on Saturday in the evacuation effort.

“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 said.

“The U.S. government is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of United States citizens in South Sudan. … For their safety and security, we will not outline specific evacuation plans,” the statement said.

On Saturday, four U.S. service members were wounded when unidentified forces attacked three U.S. aircraft attempting to evacuate Americans from Bor. The involved aircraft and personnel aborted the mission and left the country, Obama said.

While the United Nations sends more peacekeeping soldiers into the violence-stricken country, all civilian officials who are involved with the U.N. Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) have been relocated to Jor, according to the U.N.

“We are not abandoning South Sudan. We are here to stay, and will carry on in our collective resolve to work with and for the people of South Sudan,” Special Representative for South Sudan and head of UNMISS Hilde Johnson said in a statement.

The decision came after a UNMISS camp was attacked by about 2,000 armed militants, leaving two Indian peacekeepers and “a number” of South Sudanese civilians dead, according to the U.N.

Violent clashes have escalated in the world’s newest country throughout the week, following what South Sudan's President Salva Kiir’s government said was a coup attempted by rebels fighting for the former vice president who was dismissed in July.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for the violence to stop immediately and for the disparate parties to “resolve their personal differences through dialogue immediately.”


Fighting spreads in South Sudan as fears grow of civil war