Indian peacekeepers during a patrol in Juba, South Sudan. (AP)
London, Dec. 20: The UN said today that it had sent helicopters to rescue personnel from a base in South Sudan that came under lethal attack amid a worsening political crisis, and President Obama warned that South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, “stands at the precipice”.
On its Twitter feed, the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan said early today that it had sent four helicopters to rescue personnel at its base in the town of Akobo in Jonglei state, where, it said, two Indian peacekeepers had been killed when it was attacked yesterday. India said earlier that three of its soldiers had died.
The two Junior Commissioned Officers who were killed at the UN base were identified as Subedar K.P. Singh (Army Medical Corps) from Bhondsi, Gurgaon, and Subedar Dharmesh Sangwan (2 Rajputana Rifles) from Charkhi Dadri, Haryana.
The mission said it had “received assurances from forces in charge of Akobo town that its helicopters will be permitted to land safely this morning.”
Earlier, Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said communications with the base in Akobo had been lost.
At the time of the assault by unidentified attackers, the Akobo base housed 43 Indian peacekeepers, six UN police advisers, two civilians of undisclosed nationality and about 30 South Sudanese who had sought refuge there from the fighting in the area, the UN said.
Earlier today, the mission said on Twitter that 34,000 people had taken refuge at its compounds. Around 20,000 people are housed at its two compounds in Juba and up to 14,000 at its compound in Bor, the capital of Jonglei, about 125 miles north of Juba, the mission said.
In a letter to Congress released last night, Obama said 45 American troops had been sent to South Sudan to “support the security of U. personnel and our embassy”.
“In recent years, against great odds, South Sudan has made great progress towards breaking the cycle of violence that characterised much of its history,” the letter said.
“Today, that future is at risk. South Sudan stands at the precipice. Recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past.” The number of civilians seeking refuge in the UNs’ other outposts there exceeds 30,000.