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Three US military aircraft hit in South Sudan, four wounded

AFP | Last Updated: Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 23:28

Nairobi: Gunfire hit three US military aircraft trying to evacuate American citizens in a remote region of South Sudan that on Saturday became a battle ground between the country`s military and renegade troops, officials said. Four US service members were wounded in the attack in the same region where gunfire downed a UN helicopter the day before.
The US military aircraft were about to land in Bor, the capital of the state of Jonglei and scene of some of the nation`s worst violence over the last week, when they were hit. The military said the four wounded troops were in stable condition.
The US military said three CV-22 Ospreys, the kind of aircraft that can fly like a helicopter and plane, were "participating in a mission to evacuate American citizens in Bor." A South Sudan official said violence against civilians there has resulted in bodies "sprinkled all over town."

"After receiving fire from the ground while approaching the site, the aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission," the statement said. "The injured troops are being treated for their wounds." It was not known how many US civilians are in Bor.

After the aircraft took incoming fire, they turned around and flew to Entebbe, Uganda. From there the service members were flown to Nairobi, Kenya aboard a US Air Force C-17 for medical treatment, the statement said.

An official in the region who insisted on anonymity to share information not made public said the Americans did not tell the top commander in Bor Gen Peter Gadet, who defected from the South Sudan military this week, that they were coming in, which may have led to the attack. The US statements said the gunfire was from unknown forces.

South Sudan`s military spokesman, Col Philip Aguer, said that government troops are not in control of Bor, so the attack on the US aircraft has to be blamed on renegade soldiers.

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

The US aircraft was hit one day after small arms fire downed a UN helicopter in the same state.

Rob McKee, operations manager for Warrior Security, a South Sudan security company, said the UN helicopter made an emergency landing while trying to evacuate personnel from a base in Yuai, Jonglei state. A second official who insisted on anonymity because the information hasn`t been released said the helicopter was abandoned and remains unable to fly. No injuries were reported.

`World is behind you`, Ban tells Philippine typhoon survivors
Tacloban: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Philippine typhoon survivors today to "never despair", vowing to rally global backing as they rebuild their lives from one of their country`s deadliest disasters.

"Never despair. The UN is behind you. The world is behind you," the UN chief said during a visit to the devastated central city of Tacloban, which suffered more than 5,000 deaths from Super Typhoon Haiyan as it crashed through the central islands of the Philippines on November 8.

Wearing a baseball cap and a tan shirt, the 69-year-old South Korean UN chief walked through a narrow, debris-strewn street in Fatima, a coastal district in the city of 220,000 people that was obliterated by tsunami-like storm surges wrought by the typhoon.

A ship that ploughed through the neighbourhood after being hurled by huge waves lay stranded nearby, six weeks after the deluge.

Ban also visited a Tacloban tent school, put up by the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF), where pupils who had lost their homes sang Christmas carols for him. He handed out backpacks to almost 200 elementary school children there.

The typhoon, one of the strongest ever to hit land, left 6,102 people dead and 1,779 others missing, according to a government tally.

Ravaging an area the size of Portugal, it inflicted USD 12.9 billion in damage and left 4.4 million people homeless.

The Philippine government said it would need USD 8.17 billion over four years in a massive rebuilding effort.

The UN earlier this month launched a global USD 791-million call for aid to take care of the needs of the survivors over the next 12 months.

"This is a tragedy, but it can be overcome when we are united. I am here to bring that unity and solidarity," Ban told reporters, speaking beside the grounded ship in the midst of the ruined Tacloban neighbourhood.

He said he was "very impressed" with the efforts of the residents, many of them forced to live in crowded evacuation camps and makeshift tents, to get back on their feet.

"The people of Tacloban are a very resilient people and are returning to their normal lives," he added.

First Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013 - 20:07

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