JUBA: The United Nations (UN) warned on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) that violence was spreading in South Sudan, as fierce fighting in the world’s youngest nation prompted the United States (US) to evacuate Americans and other foreigners.
Britain also pulled embassy staff out of the strife-torn nation and Washington said further evacuation flights could follow as fears rise the country, which became independent from Sudan in 2011, could slide back into civil war.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more terrified civilians have fled their homes since the fighting broke out on Sunday to seek protection at UN bases.
The United States used two C-130 military transport planes and a charter aircraft to fly 150 Americans as well as US and foreign diplomats out of the country, the State Department said.
“The security situation was getting ugly. There was shooting at the airport,” a US Defense Department official said on condition of anonymity.
Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States was “deeply troubled” by the outbreak of violence in the country.
“We call on the country’s political leaders to refrain from any action that could escalate an already tense situation or fuel the violence,” she added.
Americans were still urged to leave the country and the State Department is “working to arrange for additional transportation as necessary to accommodate demand,” Harf said.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Wednesday that at least 19 civilians had been killed in new clashes between rival army factions that have now spread outside the capital Juba.
Nesirky said the fighting occurred in Bor, capital of eastern Jonglei state, and that tensions were rising in other states.
“Hundreds of civilians have been streaming into our camp on the outskirts of the town, they’re now over the 1,000 mark, and Bor is very tense,” said UN Mission in South Sudan spokesman Joe Contreras.
The UN also reported clashes in the town of Torit, state capital of Eastern Equatoria.