(BOR, South Sudan) -- Three U.S. military aircraft took gunfire during an evacuation mission in violence-torn South Sudan on Saturday, resulting in injuries to four U.S. military service members.
“We can confirm that four U.S. Service members were injured today from gunfire directed at their aircraft in South Sudan,” U.S. Africa Command said in a statement. “The aircraft was participating in a mission to evacuate American citizens in Bor. ”
Bor is a city in eastern South Sudan that has been the site of much violence in recent weeks.
A U.S. official told ABC News that the aircraft were CV-22 tilt rotor Ospreys, which is a version of an aircraft flown by U.S. Air Force Special Operations forces. The aircraft can take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane once airborne.
The statement said that “After receiving fire from the ground while approaching the site, the aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission. The injured troops are being treated for their wounds.”
Violence broke out earlier this week between rival factions of South Sudan’s military, and there is concern that the violence could become a full-blown civil war.
Hundreds have been killed in the fighting which has mainly taken place in the capital city of Juba. Bor, in the eastern state of Jonglei, has also seen heavy violence and is reportedly controlled by the military faction not loyal to the government.
The U.S. evacuation mission to Bor was presumably to take out American relief workers based in the city.
On Monday, two U.S. military C-130 aircraft evacuated 120 American and western diplomats from Juba after the State Department requested U.S. military assistance in evacuating non-emergency personnel.
The planes also carried in 45 members of the U.S. military’s East Africa Response Force (EARF) to stay behind in Juba to protect the U.S. embassy and the American diplomats who remained behind.
The EARF is one of two US military quick response forces for Africa established after the Benghazi consulate attack. The response force of 500 Marines based in Spain can respond to crises in North and West Africa, the smaller 100 man EARF is based in Djibouti and can respond to emergency situations in eastern Africa.
Just this week the U.S. military was wrapping up an airlift mission to the neighboring Central African Republic that is also in the middle of a violent crisis. For the last two weeks two U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft had transported more than 800 Burundian troops and their equipment to assist with peacekeeping efforts there.
South Sudan is the world’s newest country after breaking away from Sudan in 2011.
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