US embassy in South Sudan to evacuate more staff from Juba

The move comes as security continues to deteriorate in the capital

The United States is evacuating more embassy staff today from the South Sudanese capital of Juba amid worsening security in the country.

An emergency message to US citizens on the Embassy website said the decision to order a further drawdown of personnel was due to a "deteriorating security situation". It said there would be an evacuation flight later today arranged by the US State Department.

A travel advisory said: "We continue to urge US citizens in South Sudan to depart the country. The US Embassy will no longer [be] able to provide any consular services to US citizens in the Republic of South Sudan as of 4 January, 2014.

"US citizens who are not able to take advantage of the evacuation flight should review their personal security situation and strongly consider taking advantage of any existing commercial flights. We anticipate that the Juba airport will be open from 8am to 5pm 3 January for limited commercial flights."

Violent clashes began on 15 December when fighting emerged between President Salva Kir and supporters of his former deputy Riek Machar. At least 180,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and up to 1,000 people have been killed.

Kiir has accused his long-term political rival Machar, whom he sacked in July, of initiating the fighting in a bid to seize power, a claim which Machar denies.

Kiir's government and the rebels have sent negotiators to neighbouring Ethiopia for peace talks. They have yet to meet face-to-face but have separately met mediators from the East African bloc IGAD.

Rebel spokesman Moses Ruai Lat, based in the northern state of Unity, said today his comrades, who have seized control of Jonglei state's capital Bor, were now marching towards Juba and were nearing the capital.

His comments came a day after the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which is loyal to the government, said its forces were advancing on Bor, a strategic town some 190 km (118 miles) by road north of Juba, to meet rebel militia heading south.

In the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the peace negotiations have got off to a slow start.

"Both delegations are meeting the mediators separately," said Dina Mufti, a spokesman for Ethiopia's foreign ministry. "We hope to bring both sides into face-to-face talks soon."

The country has been plagued by ethnic tension and a power struggle within the ruling party since it became the world’s youngest independent state in July 2011.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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