DOD Aids State Department in South Sudan Evacuation
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2013 Early this morning at the State Department’s request, the Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate 120 personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters today.
The department also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the East Africa Response Force, Warren said, a Djibouti-based joint quick-response team formed after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
In a statement to the media today, Marie Harf, State Department deputy spokesperson, said the United States is deeply troubled by the recent fighting in South Sudan.
“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 said. “It is absolutely critical that political differences be resolved by peaceful and democratic means.”
Harf acknowledged the safe and successful evacuation of three groups of U.S. citizens from Juba in South Sudan this morning -- nonemergency chief-of-mission personnel and private U.S. citizens in the two C-130s, and a group of third-country nationals in a private charter flight.
“We continue to urge U.S. citizens to depart South Sudan and will work to arrange for additional transportation as necessary to accommodate demand, taking into account security conditions and availability of regular commercial flights,” she added.
“The Department of State expresses our sincere gratitude to Department of Defense colleagues for their critical assistance,” Harf said.
Also today, Susan D. Page, U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, met with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba to discuss U.S. concerns about the continued violence, increasing death toll and growing humanitarian challenges, the State Department deputy spokesperson added.
With the president, Page raised the arrests of several opposition members and called on the government to ensure their rights are protected in accordance with South Sudan’s constitution and international humanitarian and human rights laws and norms, Harf said.
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