Juba: The United Nations announced that it will send more peacekeepers to embattled towns in violence-wracked South Sudan and evacuate “non-critical” staff as fighting raged across the country.
The announcement came as world leaders embarked on a diplomatic push to pull the world’s youngest nation back from the brink of civil war.
Special envoys from the United States and Nigeria were expected in the capital Juba following a mission by foreign ministers from east Africa and the Horn.
The United States meanwhile announced that it had safely evacuated US nationals from the rebel-held city of Bor, a day after an aborted mission in which four US servicemen were injured when their aircraft came under fire in the flashpoint area.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the violence on Sunday, three days after two Indian peacekeepers were murdered when a UN compound where civilians were sheltering was attacked in the powder-keg state of Jonglei.
The UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement it would “reinforce its military presence in Bor and Pariang to continue fulfilling its mandate to help protect South Sudanese civilians”.
Forces loyal to Machar are currently in control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state and situated about 200 kilometres north of Juba; although South Sudan’s army spokesman said government troops were advancing to retake the town.
“We are not abandoning South Sudan,” stressed the UN Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson.
US President Barack Obama has warned against a coup attempt in South Sudan, and has sent special envoy Donald Booth to Juba to help foster dialogue.
“Any effort to seize power through the use of military force will result in the end of longstanding support from the United States and the international community,” the White House said.