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Evacuations, standoffs across South Sudan

Countries including China, Germany and Britain are operating more flights to evacuate foreign staff from South Sudan amid sectarian violence. The UN says thousands of Sudanese have sought shelter at its compounds.

China, whose National Petroleum Company is a key investor in the world's newest nation, said Friday it planned to evacuate 32 of its workers via the capital Juba amid reports of more fatal ethnic clashes at outlying locations.

Germany's foreign ministry said a Bundeswehr transport aircraft had airlifted 55 people, including French, Swiss and Dutch, from Juba to Entebbe in neighboring Uganda.

German Foreign Office spokesman Martin Schäfer described South Sudan's situation as "particularly bad."

UNMISS, the UN mission in South Sudan, said it had reports of fighting or civil unrest at 14 separate sites, many in the troubled eastern state of Jonglei, with 34,000 civilians sheltering in or around UN bases.

Britain said it was also mounting a second flight, a C-17 transporter, to evacuate 182 people, including 53 British nationals, to Uganda.

The British Foreign Office told evacuees to pack light and added that "all British nationals in South Sudan should leave."

The United States, which had already evacuated citizens on Wednesday, has sent 45 military personnel to protect remaining embassy and US government employees in South Sudan.

South Sudan's conflict, which flared last Sunday, has claimed the lives of hundreds of Sudanese and deepened ethnic tensions in a nation roughly the size of France, with the third-largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Indian, Malaysian and French entities - like that of China's National Petroleum Company - also have stakes in South Sudan's oilfields.

Peacekeepers lose lives

In Juba, UN spokesman Joe Contreras said Thursday's breach of a UN compound at Okobo in Jonglei state, near the Ethiopian border, had claimed the lives of two UN peacekeepers from India. A third had been left wounded, he added.

Contreras declined to confirm a claim by the spokesman for President Salva Kiir that severeal ethnic Dinkas had been killed in that raid by youths allied with his rival Riek Machar of the Nuer ethnic group.

At the time, more than 40 UN personnel had been at the compound where 30 Sudanese had sought shelter.

UNMISS on Friday said it had sent four helicopters to pull peacekeepers out of Akoko, saying it "had received assurances from forces in charge" of the remote town they would not be attacked.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) spokesman Daniel Bekele said "awful accounts" of killings in South Sudan required "urgent steps to prevent further abuses."

African mediators, led by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, said talks his intergovernmental team had had in Juba with Kiir had been "very productive."

In New York, the UN Security scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday. UN diplomats have said 34,000 people have flocked to UNMISS bases across South Sudan for refuge.

'Listen to wise counsel'

South Sudan gained independence from Khartoum-based Sudan in 2011 after years of struggle. Last Sunday, fighting broke out after what Kiir said was an attempted coup by guards loyal to Machar.

Kiir fired Machar as vice president last July. Machar later said he would contest the young nation's presidency, in 2015.

Early on Friday, a spokesman for Kiir, Ateny Wek Ateny, said the flashpoint town of Bor in Jonglei state remained in the hands of Machar's forces.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama urged "all sides to listen to wise counsel," adding "inflammatory rhetoric and targeted violence must cease."

ipj/ph (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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