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American Forces Press Service

Obama Mulls Steps to Protect U.S. Personnel in South Sudan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2013 – President Barack Obama wrote to Congress today that he's considering taking additional steps to protect U.S. citizens, personnel, and property in South Sudan.

Yesterday, three CV-22 Osprey aircraft were approaching the town of Bor, South Sudan, when they were fired on by small-arms fire by unknown forces, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement.

All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement, the statement said, and four U.S. service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.

The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya, for medical treatment, the Africom statement said.

All four service members were treated and are in stable condition, according to the statement.

The president, who is in Hawaii for his annual vacation, was updated today on the situation in South Sudan, according to a White House official.

The aircraft and U.S. service members that were fired on yesterday in South Sudan were on a mission "to protect U.S. citizens, personnel and property," Obama wrote in a letter dated today that was forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

"As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan," the president added.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is keeping a close watch on the situation in South Sudan and is reviewing options, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Adm. John Kirby said yesterday in a statement.

Whatever action the Pentagon takes, it will be conducted in coordination with the U.S. State Department, Kirby added.

This morning, the United States -- in coordination with the United Nations and in consultation with the South Sudanese government -- safely evacuated American citizens from Bor, South Sudan, according to a U.S. State Department press statement issued today.

"U.S. citizens and citizens from our partner nations were flown from Bor to Juba [South Sudan] on U.N. and U.S. civilian helicopters. 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," the State Department statement said.

The U.S. government is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of United States citizens in South Sudan, according to the statement.

"We are working with our allies around the world to connect with and evacuate U.S. citizens as quickly and safely as possible," the statement said. "For their safety and security, we will not outline specific evacuation plans.

"So far, we have evacuated approximately 380 U.S. officials and private citizens and approximately 300 citizens of other countries to Nairobi and other locations outside South Sudan on four chartered flights and five military aircraft," the statement continued. "Other U.S. citizens may have left through other means."

The U.S. State Department strongly recommends that U.S. citizens in South Sudan depart immediately, the statement said.

American citizens who remain in South Sudan are urged to keep in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Juba, and update their locations and status by contacting the embassy via email at SouthSudanEmergencyUSC@state.gov , the statement added.

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