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    US evacuates but thousands of foreigners trapped in South Sudan amid violence

    Associated Press

    • Sunday, December 22, 2013: In this photo released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), a U.N. helicopter transporting wounded civilians from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state and said to be the scene of fierce clashes between government troops and rebels, arrives at the airport in Juba, South Sudan. (AP/UNMISS)

    NAIROBI, Kenya – British, Canadian and Kenyan citizens are among 3,000 foreigners trapped in a South Sudan city experiencing bouts of heavy machine gun fire, one of the most violent areas of a weeklong conflict that has likely killed more than 1,000 people, a top U.N. official said Monday.

    Australians, Ugandans and Ethiopians are also among 17,000 people seeking protection at a U.N. base in Bor, a city that could see increased violence in coming days, said Toby Lanzer, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator.

    The death toll from a week of violence in South Sudan has likely surpassed 1,000 people, though there are no firm numbers available, he said. The number of internal refugees is probably more than 100,000, said Lanzer, who is seeking urgent financial assistance from the U.S., Britain and other European countries.

    "I know there are many thousands of people seeking protection in churches," Lanzer said. "I know that we have our own staff that have literally walked into the bush and are communicating from there. That's where they say they are safest."

    Bor is the city where rebel forces fired on three U.S. military aircraft on Saturday, forcing the Ospreys -- advanced helicopter-airplane hybrids -- to abort their evacuation mission. On Sunday the U.S. evacuated Americans by civilian U.S. and U.N. helicopters.

    The U.S. over the last week has evacuated 380 Americans and 300 others from South Sudan, which has seen vicious, ethnically targeted violence pulse through the nation.
    Lanzer, who spent the weekend in Bor, said the city is experiencing tense, sporadic clashes and "fairly consistent gunfire and heavy machine gunfire."

    South Sudan forces are advancing toward Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, but have not yet confronted forces that defected and pledged allegiance to the former vice president, said South Sudan military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer.

    The violence began late on Dec. 15. South Sudan President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, has said an attempted military coup triggered the violence, and the blame was placed on former Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. Other officials have since said a fight between Dinka and Nuer presidential guards triggered the fighting.

    New fighting was reported Sunday night in Upper Nile, one of South Sudan's two oil-rich states. Warrior Security, a private company, reported on Monday the deaths of 20 people in Nasir County in a dispute involving Machar supporters. Doctors Without Borders said it received 24 gunshot victims at its medical facility.

    Col. Philip Aguer, South Sudan's military spokesman, said elsewhere in the state that civilians who had been told their relatives were killed in Juba tried to mete out mob justice. Warrior Security said ethnic Dinkas were attacked and killed. Aguer said he did not have a death toll.

    Analysts have suggested that a tribal militia known as the White Army -- from the Lou Nuer ethnic group -- is moving toward Bor, which is populated by Dinkas. Lanzer said he couldn't say anything with precision about those reports. Aguer said he has no confirmation on militia movements but that community leaders are trying to persuade the Lou Nuer not to become involved.

    "Everybody knows that Bor is a strategic location," Lanzer said. "It would be difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which Bor is completely calm and safe over the coming days," he said, adding that he thinks violence could become "very heavy," the reason the U.N. is fortifying its position there.

    The U.S. over the weekend deployed about 46 troops to help evacuate American citizens. That was in addition to 45 troops sent to the capital, Juba, last week to protect the U.S. Embassy. Four U.S. troops were wounded in the evacuation attempt Saturday.

    Obama over the weekend sent a letter to congressional leaders letting them know he may take further military action in South Sudan to protect U.S. citizens, personnel and property.

    The central government acknowledged on Sunday it has lost control of Bentiu, the capital of Unity, and the surrounding oil fields. Oil fields in the country's Upper Nile state are still controlled by the central government, Aguer said.

    East African leaders are pushing diplomatic efforts to avoid a full-blown civil war. Obama's U.S. envoy is also headed toward the region. South Sudan experienced decades of war with Sudan, which it peacefully broke away from in 2011.

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    U.S. Marines poised to enter South Sudan

    By Marie-Louise Gumuchian. Barbara Starr and Antonia Mortensen, CNN
    updated 6:27 AM EST, Tue December 24, 2013

    A mother displaced by recent fighting in South Sudan rests on top of her belongings inside a makeshift shelter at the United Nations Mission in Sudan on Monday, December 23. Clashes between rival groups of soldiers in the capital of Juba a week ago have spread across the country.


    • NEW: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for boosting peacekeeping force
    • "There was no coup," former Vice President Riek Machar tells CNN
    • U.S. special envoy says South Sudan's president is ready to begin talks with rival
    • About 150 Marines are headed to South Sudan to help with evacuations, security

    -- About 150 U.S. Marines are poised to enter turbulent South Sudan to help evacuate Americans and provide security for the U.S. Embassy, if ordered to do so, two U.S. military officials said Monday.

    The troops are moving from Moron, Spain, to the Navy's Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

    An estimated 100 U.S. citizens are believed to be in South Sudan, where steady violence is stoking fears of an all-out civil war in the world's newest country.

    Riek Machar: This is an uprising

    "By positioning these forces forward, we are able to more quickly respond to crisis in the region, if required," read a statement from U.S. Africa Command.

    Obama on South Sudan

    It cited the example of Benghazi, where an attack last year killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

    "One of the lessons learned from the tragic events in Benghazi was that we needed to be better postured, in order to respond to developing or crisis situations, if needed.

    These precautionary movements will allow us to do just that," the statement read.

    According to a senior administration official, 380 American citizens and about another 300 third-country nationals have been evacuated.

    "Based on registration, there are American citizens in other towns and areas throughout South Sudan. We are trying to track down how many may still be there. Many may have gotten out on their own. We are trying to track that down," the official said.

    On Sunday, all Americans who presented themselves at a U.N camp in the flashpoint town of Bor were evacuated safely, the State Department said.

    A State Department official said about 15 Americans were flown out Sunday. U.S. personnel have been working to confirm that no other U.S. citizens remained in Bor in need of evacuation.

    U.N. civilian staff were moved from a compound in Bor to Juba, the capital, on Saturday, the same day a U.S. mission to airlift Americans out was aborted when the aircraft came under fire.

    Four U.S. troops were wounded in the attack in Bor and were to be moved to the U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Sunday.

    One of the injured "went through some pretty serious surgery" after being taken to Nairobi, Kenya, with wounds from gunshots fired at the aircraft. All four have been able to speak to their families.

    "The United States and the United Nations, which has the lead for securing Bor airport in South Sudan, took steps to ensure fighting factions were aware these flights were a humanitarian mission," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

    "The U.S. government is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of United States citizens in South Sudan. We are working with our allies around the world to connect with and evacuate U.S. citizens as quickly and safely as possible."

    Rebel seizure

    Earlier, government officials reported rebels have seized the capital of a key oil-producing state in South Sudan.

    Military spokesman Phillip Aguer told CNN that Bentiu is no longer under government control after falling to troops loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, who was ousted from his post in the summer.

    On its Twitter feed, the South Sudanese government wrote: "Bentiu is not currently in our hands. It is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar."

    Bentiu is the capital of Unity state, the source of oil -- crucial to impoverished South Sudan's economy -- that flows through pipelines north into Sudan for export.

    Aguer said troops of the Sudan People's Liberation Army were on their way to retake rebel-held towns -- namely Bentiu and Bor, also north of Juba.

    He said the army had not asked regional powers to assist, saying it was equipped to handle the situation. He would not specify the number of troops being sent in but estimated about 1,500 rebels were in both Bor and Bentiu.

    President Salva Kiir, from South Sudan's Dinka ethnic group, has accused troops loyal to Machar, from the Nuer community, of trying to launch a coup. The two men have long been political rivals, and Kiir dismissed Machar, along with the Cabinet, in July.

    The U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth, said Monday that Kiir told him he is ready to begin talks with Machar, without preconditions as soon his counterpart is willing, to try to stop the violence.

    South Sudan formally split from Sudan in 2011 after a referendum following decades of conflict. Armed groups remain active in the oil-rich country.

    Machar: 'There was no coup'

    The former vice president said Monday that he and his supporters have no intention of taking power through military means.

    "There was no coup. It was a sheer lie, fabrication," Machar told CNN's Max Foster.

    "There is an uprising in South Sudan, as you well know. The people are uprising. It is because of the security forces that are stamping down on the popular feeling of people. The people of South Sudan are fed up with what Salva Kiir has been doing all this time."

    He said he was happy to start talks with the President, but only if Kiir first releases political detainees.

    "These are the only people who can dialogue. The army releases them, then the dialogue can start soon, and hopefully we will get a peaceful settlement," Machar told CNN.

    United Nations responds

    Up to 40,000 civilians have taken refuge in U.N. bases in the country, the world body says. It estimates some 62,000 people have been displaced, with violence affecting five of South Sudan's 10 states.

    "The U.N. stood with you on your road to independence," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in a message to the people of South Sudan. "We will stay with you now. I know that the current situation is causing great and growing fear. You are seeing people leave the country amid increasing chaos. The U.N. will stay with you."

    He called for reinforcing the U.N. peacekeeping force, which currently has more than 6,800 troops and police in the landlocked country. In a letter, Ban asked the Security Council to boost the force by 5,500 personnel.

    The United Nations has moved noncritical staff out of Juba across the border into Uganda. The violence, which began in the capital, has spread farther north in one week, killing hundreds of people and displacing tens of thousands.

    According to the senior U.S. administration official, the United Nations is working up a list of requests for assistance.

    "Washington is now in the process of looking at these requests and evaluating how we can be helpful and how we can do that as quickly as possible," the official said.

    Doctors Without Borders 'deeply concerned'

    Medecins Sans Frontieres said it was "deeply concerned" for the safety of those caught up in the violence.

    The group, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said fighting had broken out Sunday in Nasir in the Upper Nile state, and a hospital in the town had received 24 patients with gunshot wounds.

    The group is also providing assistance in Bentiu and Juba.

    "Yesterday while setting up the mobile clinic for the displaced in Juba, there was still a queue of people arriving carrying all their belongings, with their children in tow. With the ongoing conflict in the country, people are unsure of how the situation will evolve and are scared to return home," Forbes Sharp, the humanitarian group's emergency coordinator, said in a statement.

    "The situation is evolving fast in South Sudan and we are reacting as best we can to the changing landscape of the violence."
    Read: Evacuation operation aborted as U.S. planes come under fire in South Sudan
    Last edited by American Patriot; December 24th, 2013 at 13:50.

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    Posted: 14 minutes ago
    Updated: 12 minutes ago
    UN says mass grave of 75 found in South Sudan

    By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press; JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press

    NAIROBI, Kenya — The United Nations has discovered a mass grave containing about 75 bodies in South Sudan, the world body said Tuesday, evidence of the wave of ethnic killings taking place in the world's newest country over the last week.

    Word of the mass grave came as South Sudan undertook military operations to wrest back control of the city of Bor from rebels loyal to the country's former vice president.
    One potential complicating factor: The military said armed elements have entered a U.N. refugee camp in Bor that holds about 17,000 civilians.

    The mass grave was found in Bentiu, said U.N.'s human rights chief Navi Pillay. At least two other mass graves are reported to have been found in Juba, she said in a statement Tuesday.

    The bodies in Bentiu reportedly belonged to the ethnic Dinka, who were members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based human rights office.

    Responding to the discovery, the government minister of information Michael Makuei Lueth said: "Of course Bentiu is under the control of the rebel leader Riek Machar, so we have nothing to do with that area."

    The United States and Ethiopia are leading efforts to open peace talks on the 10-day-old crisis. Officials say President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have agreed to meet but specifics including the status of Machar's imprisoned compatriots are holding up talks.

    South Sudanese troops are advancing on Bor in order to take it back from troops loyal to Machar, said military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer. Troops will also soon advance on another rebel-held city, Bentiu, in the oil-rich region of Unity state, he said.

    "We have already started in Bor," Lueth said.

    The U.N. has staff in the country investigating the incidents of mass killings, said Pillay. It is unclear who is responsible for the killings, she said. The other two reported mass graves are in Jebel-Kujur and Newside, near Eden, she said.

    The country's top U.N. humanitarian official said Monday that he believes the death toll from 10 days of violence has surpassed 1,000 but that there are no firm counts. The official, Toby Lanzer, estimated that there are more than 100,000 internal refugees across the country seeking shelter from the violence.

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    Africa Command repositions forces to increase flexibility

    By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service / Published December 24, 2013

    1 of 1
    U.S. Soldiers, along with East Africa Response Force soldiers, depart a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft in Juba, Sudan, Dec. 18, 2013. The U.S. State Department requested the assistance of U.S. military forces in evacuating personnel from the embassy in Juba to Nairobi, Kenya, amid political and ethnic violence in South Sudan.

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    WASHINGTON -- The commander of U.S. Africa Command is repositioning forces in East Africa in an effort to attain maximum flexibility to respond to State Department requests, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters here Dec. 23.

    Warren also told reporters that three of the four U.S. personnel who were wounded Dec. 21 when they attempted to evacuate Americans from the town of Bor, South Sudan, will be evacuated to Landstuhl Army Hospital in Germany. The fourth will be evacuated when his condition stabilizes.

    The four injured U.S. service members are currently in a hospital in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. They were hit by small-arms fire when their Osprey aircraft attempted to land in Bor.

    Based on the current situation in South Sudan, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the commander of Africom, moved elements from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response from Moron, Spain, to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

    "By positioning these forces forward, we are able to more quickly respond to crisis in the region, if required," a defense official said. The Djiboutian government fully agrees with the movement.

    The moves are precautionary, and there is risk associated with this or any other military operation, the colonel said.

    "As everyone would expect, the combatant commander is repositioning forces in the region in an effort to give himself the maximum flexibility to respond to any follow-on request from the Department of State," Warren said.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been following the situation very closely, and is in nearly continuous communication with the combatant commander, the official said.

    There has been no discussion about the U.S. military helping reposition United Nations forces, Warren said.

    Defense Department and other government contracted aircraft have evacuated more than 300 personnel out of South Sudan's capital of Juba including about 100 yesterday.

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    Displaced: South Sudanese who have fled ethnic fighting line up for water Saturday at the U.N. mission in South in Juba. | AFP-JIJI
    World / Politics | ANALYSIS

    Why world’s newest country is nearing civil war

    by Max Fisher

    The Washington Post

    WASHINGTON – It was considered one of the world’s great successes when South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9, 2011. After many unhappy years as a region of Sudan, the new country declared its independence with crucial support from the outside world, particularly the United States.

    Now, less than 2˝ years later, South Sudan appears to be on the verge of a potential civil war. Since an alleged coup attempt Dec. 15 fighting between rebels and government forces has killed at least 500 people, injured four U.S. troops and left entire cities disputed.

    The roots of South Sudan’s conflict extend back much further than the country’s 2011 independence. And, while all internal conflicts are complicated, this one is especially so. But you might say that, in the most general terms, there are three big forces driving the conflict:

    South Sudan is very poor and underdeveloped, and resource scarcity tends to fracture politics and exacerbate ethnic conflict.

    The same forces that helped South Sudan win independence — militias, strongly felt tribal identities — also set it up for today’s conflict.

    More narrowly, the president fired the vice president, starting a political dispute that may have been the match to South Sudan’s tinderbox.

    Let’s go through those one by one.
    Poverty exacerbates rifts

    Being poor does not in itself make a country prone to conflict. The problem is when resources are scarce and there isn’t a good system for distributing them. That forces people to compete for resources. And that competition can cause social divides to widen. In South Sudan’s case, the divides are ethnic.

    South Sudan is especially susceptible to this problem because its economy is a very unlucky mix of poor people, a poor state and rich resources. South Sudan’s GDP per capita is about $1,000, one of the lowest in the world. Its infrastructure is practically nonexistent, with only a few dozen kilometers of paved road across a nation the size of Texas. But the country has an awful lot of oil.

    That means that South Sudan is poor in ways that make people more likely to compete for resources, because individuals don’t have very much, and that the country is rich in ways that make people more likely to compete, in this case for control over the oil.
    Seeds of internal conflict

    The decades before South Sudan’s independence are complicated.

    In the simplest terms, its history was defined by half a century of fighting between the politically dominant, ethnically Arab north and the politically weaker, ethnically sub-Saharan south. Rebel groups in the south wanted more autonomy from the north. They had to fight very hard to get it (although they owe a lot to the north, which behaved so terribly that it galvanized world opinion in favor of the south).

    The thing, though, is that South Sudan is actually pretty ethnically diverse. South Sudan, like a number of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa — and particularly this region of it — is defined by borders that have very little to do with the actual people there. The earlier, unified version of Sudan had been carved out, in part, by European and especially British colonialism. The long-running conflict between the country’s north and its south was, like many wars in post-colonial Africa, partly a consequence of European cartographers having forced disparate groups into artificial borders.

    The idea of South Sudan is too new for most people to have internalized it as their national identity, and the old unified Sudan was too hated and in any case too artificial. So people have defaulted to an ethnic or tribal identity.

    The country’s demographic composition is just about right for people to divide violently along ethnic lines. The largest group, the Dinka, only makes up about 15 percent of the population. The next-largest, the Nuer, are about 10 percent. There are dozens of other ethnic groups that speak dozens of languages. As Stephen Saideman, a political scientist who studies ethnic conflict, wrote this year, “In societies that have very little diversity, there is no opportunity for (ethnic) violence. For societies where there is a great deal, there is no threat of dominance. But in places where there are a few groups that rival each other, then the threats they pose to each other or at least one to the others can be severe.”

    So, in South Sudan, you previously had lots of ethnic groups organizing along ethnic lines so that they could come together (if imperfectly and inconsistently) to fight the north. Now they have lost that unifying enemy but still have the ethnic organization, and are being pushed toward competition by the economic conditions we talked about earlier. Worse, South Sudan’s history of the last few decades has been one where the state doesn’t have a monopoly on violence; militias have had a lot of that power. So it is much easier for people to resort to militias as a sort of default, making it much more likely for political or ethnic disputes to turn violent.
    Rivalry turns ethnic

    This is where we get into this week’s conflict. The president since independence, Salva Kiir, is an ethnic Dinka. His former vice president, Riek Machar, is a Nuer. Kiir saw Machar as a rival — probably with some reason — and fired him in July.

    Kiir and Machar are the two most powerful people from their ethnic groups in a country where ethnic grouping is very important. So a fight between those two men was bound to exacerbate tension between their respective ethnic groups, which also have lots of other people in positions of power.

    On Dec. 15, some soldiers loyal to Kiir clashed with soldiers loyal to Machar. Kiir accused Machar of trying to stage a coup, although that is probably not what happened.

    Since then, fighting between the respective groups has spread, with forces loyal to Machar now having seized small but significant pieces of territory.

    Eric Reeves, a Smith College political scientist who studies South Sudan, told my Washington Post colleague Sudarsan Raghavan that, given the ethnic diversity within the army, “the events of the last days were, if not inevitable, all too likely.”
    “If not inevitable, all too likely” is a good description for South Sudan’s conflict. There is nothing inherent to the people of South Sudan that makes them any more or less prone to conflict than people from any other countries. But there are certain economic, demographic and political factors that, in any country, make internal conflict more likely. A significant number of those factors are present in the world’s youngest country, and to a dangerously high degree. South Sudan is just unlucky.

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    24 December 2013 Last updated at 08:35 ET South Sudan sees 'mass ethnic killings'

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    James Copnall: "Atrocities have been committed on all sides"

    Continue reading the main story South Sudan strife

    New evidence is emerging of alleged ethnic killings committed during more than a week of fighting in South Sudan.

    The violence follows a power struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his Nuer ex-deputy Riek Machar.

    A reporter in the capital, Juba, quoted witnesses as saying more than 200 people, mostly ethnic Nuers, had been shot by security forces.

    The UN says it has discovered a mass grave in Bentiu in the oil-rich Unity State, containing about 75 bodies.

    "There are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba," UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement.

    A spokeswoman for the Geneva-based human rights office told the BBC the ethnicity of those killed in Bentiu was unclear - but there are reports they are ethnic Dinkas.

    Ravina Shamdasani said the other two reported mass graves were in Jebel-Kujur and Newside, near Eden.

    She said it was not clear who was responsible for the killings.

    Personal rivalry

    The fighting first erupted in Juba last week and has spread throughout South Sudan, with rebels supporting Mr Machar seizing the major towns of Bor and Bentiu, north of the capital.

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    James Copnall explains the fighting in 60 seconds

    Bentiu is the capital of the oil-producing Unity State.

    Mr Kiir has accused Mr Machar, whom he sacked in July, of plotting a coup. Mr Machar denies he is trying to seize power, while the government has denied it is behind any ethnic violence.

    The fear is that the personal rivalry between the former allies will spark a full-scale conflict between the Nuer and Dinka groups.


    James Copnall BBC Africa analyst

    The growing number of allegations of ethnically motivated killings are deeply concerning. It's important to remember that this crisis is at its heart a political struggle, in a militarised, and, yes, ethnically divided society.

    The strength of politicians often comes from their ethnic base, so the power struggle is exacerbating ethnic cleavages.

    It is wrong to paint this as an "ethnic war", though - it is far more complicated than this. It is also unclear to what extent the military commanders can control the many armed civilians fighting in different parts of the country.

    With all that said, international concern about ethnically driven violence is high. Ban Ki-moon has warned that anyone responsible for human rights violations will be held to account.

    It is to be hoped that these are not empty words.

    Hannah McNeish, a journalist in Juba, told the BBC that she had interviewed a man called Simon, living at a UN camp, who said he was shot four times but managed to survive a mass killing by hiding under dead bodies.

    "He tells of being rounded up with about 250 other men, driven to a police station in one of Juba's busiest suburbs. He describes an ordeal whereby over the course of two days, forces outside the windows fired into this room, killing all but 12 men," she said.

    McNeish said this account had been corroborated by two other survivors at the camp.

    Another man interviewed at the UN base in Juba reported that Dinka gunmen were shooting people in Nuer districts who did not speak the Dinka language.

    UN humanitarian co-ordinator Toby Lanzer, who was in Bor over the weekend, told the BBC he had witnessed "some of the most horrible things that one can imagine".

    The claims of atrocities have not been independently verified.

    'Face the consequences'

    The official death toll stands at 500, but aid agencies say the true figure is likely to be much higher.

    There has also been fighting in Upper Nile State but few details have emerged.

    Another 81,000 people have been displaced, the UN's humanitarian agency says, with about half seeking shelter at UN bases.

    It warned many more people could be affected in more remote areas.

    The UN has 7,000 soldiers deployed in South Sudan, but on Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to reassign another 5,500 troops from UN missions in other African countries, including Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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    Ban: "The world is watching all sides in South Sudan"

    He also asked for hundreds more police, three attack helicopters, three transport helicopters and one military transport plane.

    He has said all reports of human rights violations and crimes against humanity will be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

    Two Indian peacekeepers were killed last week in a rebel raid on a UN compound.

    President Kiir has said he is willing to hold talks with Mr Machar - and that a delegation of East African foreign ministers had offered to mediate - but that his former deputy would have to come to the table without any conditions.

    Mr Machar told Reuters news agency that he was open to dialogue if his political allies were released from detention.

    Sudan suffered a 22-year civil war that left more than a million people dead before the South became independent in 2011.

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    China will send troops to South Sudan

    May 30 2014 at 12:28pm

    Comment on this story

    Refugees from South Sudan look at a photo montage depicting the conflict in their country on a calendar at the Kyangwali refugee settlement in the Hoima district in western Uganda. File picture: Thomas Mukoya

    New York -
    China will soon send an infantry battalion to reinforce the United Nations peacekeeping mission in war-torn South Sudan, officials said on Thursday.
    In December, the Security Council voted to send an extra 5 500 peacekeepers - some re-assigned from other UN missions in Africa - to the UN mission in the world's newest country, bringing the total deployment there to 12 500.
    More than half of these reinforcements have arrived.
    UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous confirmed on Thursday that China had agreed to send a “battalion” of 850 soldiers within the next few months.
    He told reporters the UN “was in the process of deploying a Rwandan battalion” re-assigned from the UN mission in Darfur, and was expecting “in the next two weeks Ethiopian troops, additional Kenyan troops, and later, Chinese”.
    UN officials said this was the first time China will send a combat unit to a UN peacekeeping operation. Beijing has participated in UN missions in Mali and Darfur, but only sent logistical and protection units.
    The UN Security Council on Tuesday approved a resolution making defending civilians the highest priority task in the South Sudan mission.
    The mission's other roles are to keep a close eye on the human rights situation, to help deliver humanitarian aid, and to watch over compliance of a truce signed by the rival sides but never respected.
    The UN says crimes against humanity may have been committed by both sides in the conflict, supporters of President Salva Kiir and of his ex-vice president Riek Machar, and fears a famine may set in.
    South Sudan only gained its independence from Sudan three years ago and has been ravaged by a conflict between rebel groups and the government since December 15, resulting in massacres and atrocities against thousands of civilians from both sides.
    Around a million people have been displaced and many are living in extremely cramped and precarious conditions. - Sapa-AFP
    "God's an old hand at miracles, he brings us from nonexistence to life. And surely he will resurrect all human flesh on the last day in the twinkling of an eye. But who can comprehend this? For God is this: he creates the new and renews the old. Glory be to him in all things!" Archpriest Avvakum

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    Is that a new word?
    Libertatem Prius!

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    Default Re: Sudan

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Ruck View Post

    U.S. Air Force Finally Talks About That Time Three V-22s Almost Got Shot Down

    American troops had to abort rescue operation after taking damage and casualties in South Sudan

    August 4, 2014

    In December 2013, American troops aborted a rescue mission in South Sudan. Now, the U.S. Air Force finally has released additional details about the ill-fated operation.

    They’re pretty frightening … and impressive.

    On Dec. 21, three Air Force CV-22 Ospreys carrying commandos left Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, bound for the city of Bor in South Sudan. Widespread violence in the country following an attempted coup d’etat had trapped American civilians.

    At first, the Pentagon and Africa Command were vague about what happened next. An official press statement said the aircraft had come under attack by forces on the ground and four unidentified “service members” were wounded.

    The unique tiltrotors landed safely in Uganda. Official spokesmen described the casualties as being “in stable condition” and said the injured had gone to Kenya for extra medical attention.

    These paltry snippets of information didn’t suggest the situation had been especially serious. But now in a new official news piece, the Air Force describes a deadly serious chain of events that almost resulted in the destruction of the aircraft and the deaths of people aboard.

    The operation kicked off according to plan. The CV-22s—which can fly like regular planes and land like helicopters—arrived on schedule at the United Nations compound in Bor, where the evacuees were sheltering.

    The pilots from the 8th Special Operations Squadron then flew around the immediate area to check for any hostile fighters. The tiltrotors were about to land when someone attacked.

    “The barrage of gunfire and RPGs from the ground hit the formation 119 times,” the 1st Special Operations Wing news report explains. In the end, all three Ospreys suffered severe damaged. Gunfire and shrapnel hit four special operators aboard the planes.

    Three of the wounded troops were “in critical condition” and apparently could have died as the planes rushed to Entebbe airport in neighboring Uganda.

    The injuries were so severe that medics “began drawing matching blood from personnel on board to ensure an immediate transfusion” when the aircraft touched down at Entebbe, according to the Air Force.

    As if bleeding commandos weren’t bad enough, the enemy machine guns and rockets had broken the fuel lines in at least one of the aircraft. Aerial tankers—quite possibly the MC-130P Combat Shadows that also fly from Djibouti—rushed to the scene to top up the limping Ospreys’ tanks.

    These harrowing details highlight the skills and quick thinking of America’s service members. The Osprey crews—now also identified by their callsigns Rooster 73, 74 and 75—will receive the 2013 Mackay Trophy for their actions.

    The National Aeronautic Association presents this award to “the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons or organization.”

    The flying branch picks the unit and the NAA—a non-profit that promotes all things aviation—hands out the trophy at an annual event. The association also cites “the mobile blood bank” in its official press release— and adds even more details about the operation.

    The air commandos apparently had manually to run out the refueling boom on their aircraft when the tankers showed up. A hydraulic mechanism normally extends and retracts this probe.

    NAA formally will recognize the crews of Rooster Flight in November.

    Osprey Crew Members Recognized For Actions During South Sudan Ambush

    August 24, 2014

    As three CV-22s on a rescue mission descended on a U.N. compound in war-torn South Sudan, Capt. Arjun Rau saw something he’ll never forget — a bright red streak, headed straight at him.

    “We were turning right, and I see a red tracer fly by my head,” Rau said of the Dec. 21 flight. “I thought it was a road flare. It turned out to be a tracer.”

    His seat in the Osprey’s cockpit began to shake. Small-arms and heavy machine gun rounds peppered his aircraft, Chalk 2, and the two others in the flight. The carbon fiber floor started to shred and the armor under his seat began to rumble as rounds came through the aircraft.

    “I thought about, initially, almost nothing,” Rau said. “I was kind of a little bit in shock at first over being shot at. But then everyone went right into thinking, ‘OK, what do we do next?’”

    The Ospreys flew into the civil war raging in South Sudan on a flight to try to rescue American citizens in the city of Bor, the center of the violence. Four Special Forces troops were injured on the flight and 119 rounds hit the three Ospreys, but the crews’ quick thinking and prompt action prevented more casualties.

    The Air Force recently awarded the 12 air crew members on the mission with the 2013 Mackay Trophy, awarded for the most meritorious flight in the Air Force that year.

    Mission aborted

    The Ospreys and crews from the 8th Special Operations Squadron were deployed to Djibouti from their home base of Hurlburt Field, Florida, for several months as violence raged in South Sudan. An attempted coup triggered violence across the country, two years after it had declared its independence from Sudan.

    The airmen were told for weeks that American citizens could be under threat from the rebels and to form rescue plans if they were called into action. The U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Juba had evacuated at least 450 Americans and other foreign nationals. A U.N. helicopter was downed by small-arms fire the day before the Ospreys took off.

    “Just leading up to our launch, there was a little bit of an uptick in violence,” Rau said.

    The crews took action Dec. 21. The flight of three Ospreys flew about 750 miles through three countries to reach the U.N. compound in Bor, which had recently fallen into rebel control.In addition to the 12 aircrew members, the Ospreys carried 21 special operations troops for the mission.

    The flight was uneventful, until they arrived at the compound, said Master Sgt. Alberto Delgado, who was a special mission aviator on the third aircraft.

    When the Ospreys arrived, they circled the site and assessed the area before beginning their approach. They flew close to the ground and began to turn right as the first rounds were fired. Rebels hit the flight with small-arms, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

    Chalk 2, Rau’s Osprey, took fire toward his cockpit. The lead aircraft, Chalk 1, took the heaviest fire, injuring four Special Forces troops. Chalk 3, Delgado’s Osprey, was also hit. The rescue was off, and the crew had new priorities.

    “One of the first things that flew to my head is, ‘What are we going to do with the evacuees?’ ’’ Rau said. “There was a contingency plan put into effect, and the citizens were eventually evacuated shortly thereafter.”

    The Ospreys scattered and rushed out of the area. Chalk 2 had the flight’s medic and he began assessing the injuries on Chalk 1 over the radio. While in flight, the medic began a mobile “blood bank,” requesting blood types of the crew and drawing blood.

    The three aircraft had fuel leaks, structural damage and flight control failures, and still had to fly more than 500 miles to a waiting C-17 in Entebbe, Uganda, so the injured troops could be evacuated.

    A C-130 that was standing by refueled the aircraft multiple times en route. The Ospreys finally landed an hour and a half after taking the first shots in Bor. The injured troops were then taken to Nairobi, Kenya, and all four survived.

    'We took a lot of fire'

    The CV-22 Osprey, once one of the military’s most controversial aircraft, has become a workhorse for Air Force special operations, thanks to their ability to operate in missions such as this.

    “We took a lot of fire, we took a lot of damage,” Delgado said. “The aircraft proved to be very battle hardened.”

    The tilt-rotor aircraft flies two- to three times as fast as a regular helicopter, Rau said, which allowed the crews to get out of the attack quickly and make it to Entebbe despite extensive damage.

    “We were shot multiple times in multiple fuel cells,” Rau said. “The equipment didn’t explode. The leak was stopped.”

    The crews in the mission credit the evasive maneuvers for preventing more casualties and getting the flight back to safety.

    “One moment that will always stick with me was a Special Forces member approaching me a few months after the flight and asking if I was the aircraft commander of the flight he was on. I nodded yes,” Maj. Taylor Fingarson, the pilot of the third Osprey, said in an Air Force release on the mission. “He told me, as he heard the rounds hitting the aircraft, he felt me maneuver the Osprey in ways he didn’t know were possible. He told me I saved his life.”

    Meritorious flight

    The Mackay Trophy dates back to 1912 and has been presented for flights such as Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier and Operation Homecoming in the Vietnam War. Recently, it has been presented to pararescue crews for dramatic rescues in Afghanistan.

    “It’s impressive, I’m very proud of that,” Delgado said. “It’s an honor to have our name on the same trophy.”

    “I feel very insignificant, compared to the other award winners,” Rau said. “They are pretty inspirational and amazing. ... They did some very, very amazing things. ”

    While the crews of the Ospreys will receive the trophyat a November ceremony, the award really goes to everyone who was involved in the mission, Rau said.

    “Everybody performed so admirably that day. All the crew members on board our three aircraft, as well as our accompanying C-130 that gave us the critical air refueling. As well as the special operations team members onboard. Everybody went above and beyond,” he said.

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