U.S. Military Aircraft Attacked In South Sudan

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

SUDAN (CBS) -- U.S. military aircraft on a mission to evacuate Americans from South Sudan was hit by gunfire Saturday, wounding four U.S. servicemembers, according to the military's Africa Command.

South Sudan blamed the attack on renegade troops in control of the breakaway region.

The aircraft was heading to Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei and scene of some of the nation's worst violence over the last week.

Africa Command said in a statement that the aircraft took incoming fire from the ground, then diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission.

The injured servicemembers were being treated for their wounds, according to the statement.

South Sudan's military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, told The Associated Press that government troops are not in control of Bor, so the attack on the U.S. aircraft has to be blamed on renegade soldiers, he said.

"Bor is under the control of the forces of Riek Machar," Aguer said.

South Sudan President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, said this week that an attempted coup triggered the violence now pulsing through South Sudan. He blamed the former vice president, Machar, an ethnic Nuer. But officials have since said a fight between Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard triggered the initial violence late Sunday night. Machar's ouster from the country's No. 2 political position earlier this year had stoked ethnic tensions.

The violence has killed hundreds and has world leaders worried that a full-blown civil war could ignite in South Sudan. The south fought a decades-long war with Sudan before a 2005 peace deal resulted in a 2011 referendum that saw South Sudan break away from the north, taking most of the region's oil wealth with it.

An International Crisis Group expert on South Sudan told the AP on Friday that rebels have taken control of at least some of South Sudan's oil fields, an issue that could bring Sudan into the conflict. South Sudan's oil flows north through Sudan's pipelines, providing Khartoum with much needed income.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday said the week-long violence resulted from a "political dispute among the country's political leaders" that could affect not only South Sudan, but neighboring countries and the entire region.

President Obama earlier this week dispatched U.S. troops to help protect the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Juba. The U.S. Embassy organized at least five emergency evacuation flights to help U.S. citizens leave the country. Other countries like Britain, Germany and Italy also helped citizens evacuate.


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