21 December 2013

South Sudan: U.S. Military Aircraft Hit By Rebel Fire

US military aircraft flying in to South Sudan on a mission to evacuate American citizens have been shot at by rebels. Four US soldiers have been wounded. It follows a week of violence in the country.

The US military aircraft were heading from their base in Uganda to Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei, which has been the scene of some of the worst violence over the last week.

There has been fighting in South Sudan since President Salva Kiir accused vice president Riek Machar of attempting a coup earlier this month. The South Sudanese army is trying to retake Bor which was reportedly captured by rebels several days ago.

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The US helicopters were flying in on Saturday to evacuate American citizens, according to the US military. After the aircraft came under fire, they turned around and headed back to Uganda's capital Kampala and then on to Nairobi, Kenya to seek medical treatment for the wounded soldiers, the officials said.

The US military's Africa Command said in a statement: "After receiving fire from the ground while approaching the site, the aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission."

South Sudan's army spokesman Philip Aguer was unable to confirm any aircraft had been hit by gunfire in Bor. But he said that any attack was the fault of forces loyal to deposed vice president Machar fighting government troops.

"Any such shooting is the fault of the forces of Riek Machar who have taken Bor... we are not there," he told news agency AFP.

Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, said this week that it was the attempted coup by Machar, an ethnic Nuer which set off the violence. But officials have since said a dispute between Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard triggered the initial violence.

 (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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