Americans evacuated amid civil unrest in South Sudan
WASHINGTON — Amid spiraling violence in South Sudan in recent days, two U.S. Air Force C-130s evacuated 120 personnel from the capital, Juba, on Wednesday at the request of the State Department, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren said.
Of the 120 evacuees, 38 were diplomatic personnel from the U.S. Embassy, 28 were foreign diplomats, and 54 were American citizens not affiliated with the embassy, a DOD official told Stars and Stripes on condition of anonymity. All were evacuated to Nairobi, Kenya, Warren said.
“The evacuation was conducted without incident,” he said.
DOD augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the East Africa Response Force — a joint team based in Djibouti designated to augment security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Africa.
“This is another example of ways the department has improved its response capabilities since Benghazi,” Warren said, referring to the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, on the U.S. diplomatic facility in that Libyan city, in which four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
DOD would not say how many additional U.S. military personnel remain in Juba.
“We believe it’s a force sufficient in size, based on the situation.” Warren said.
“Right now, the Defense Department operations are complete,” Warren said when asked if there would be more evacuations.
The C-130s are in Nairobi now but will return to Djibouti, DOD said.
Warren said the evacuation was due to “general unrest” and not a specific terrorist threat.
Clashes began Sunday and raised fears that the fighting could escalate to civil war in the country, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011.
“The situation was getting ugly. There was a lot of shooting going on around the airport and throughout the city. And the embassy just decided it was better to get out of town than stay,” said the DOD official who requested anonymity.
The embassy is still open but all non-essential diplomatic personnel have been evacuated, the official said.