By Pauline Jelinek
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon flew 120 U.S. diplomats and others out of South Sudan on Wednesday because of continuing violence in the African nation.
Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren said two C-130 aircraft picked up employees from the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Juba, along with foreign diplomats and some U.S. citizens, and flew them to neighboring Kenya. The State Department said an additional group of Americans and third-country nationals was evacuated in a private charter.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. has continued to urge all Americans to leave South Sudan and will work to help arrange transportation for them, taking into account the security conditions and the availability of commercial flights.
She said U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Page, met on Wednesday with President Salva Kiir in Juba to express concern about the ongoing violence, rising death toll and the widening humanitarian problems. Page also raised concern about the arrests of several opposition members and called on the government to make sure their rights are protected.
"The United States is deeply troubled by the recent fighting in South Sudan," Harf said in a statement. "We call on the country's political leaders to refrain from any action that could escalate an already tense situation or fuel the violence. It is absolutely critical that political differences be resolved by peaceful and democratic means."
The Defense Department said a small U.S. military force remains on the ground in Juba to augment embassy security.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press