JUBA , South Sudan, July 13 (UPI) — About 40 U.S. military troops were rushed to Juba, South Sudan, to speed the evacuation of embassy personnel caught in resumed fighting, the U.S. State Department announced Wednesday.
The troops, from the U.S. Africa Command’s Crisis Response Force, will protect the U.S. Embassy and help evacuate non-essential embassy staff, said Samantha Reho, spokeswoman of the U.S. Africa Command.
The U.S. State Department announced an “ordered departure”of the embassy of non-essential employees, earlier this week, as fighting between rival groups loyal to South Sudan’s president and to the vice president erupted.
The embassy’s ability to help any U.S. citizen currently in South Sudan is currently limited, State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
Although a tentative truce began Monday, nearly 300 people were reported killed in fighting in the streets of the capital, and the United Nations said more than 36,000 people have been displaced since fighting started last week.
“We brought in a small contingent of U.S. military forces. They are here to protect the embassy and to help us provide support for those Americans who want to depart from South Sudan at this time. The reason [the troops] are here is to provide me and my team with support so we can continue to help resolve the crisis and provide humanitarian assistance to the people of South Sudan,” U.S. Ambassador Molly Phee to South Sudan said in an interview with the U.N. Mission in South Sudan.
The conflict has been simmering for several years, and although clashes have occurred across the country, it is feared the heavy fighting in the capital is indicative of the start of a larger-scale conflict, ABC News reported.