The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.S. troops deployed to bolster security at American embassy in South Sudan

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command stages on a hasty landing zone during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel drill at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia in November. (Cpl. Akeel Austin/Marine Corps)

The United States has sent an additional 40 troops to help protect the American embassy in South Sudan, just days after a spat of fighting killed hundreds in the country’s capital.

The troops, likely a contingent from the U.S. Marine Corps’ crisis-response force based out of Morón, Spain, deployed Tuesday to bolster security and help with the departure of the embassy’s “non-essential personnel.” A statement put out by the embassy Tuesday made sure to clarify that the facility is not evacuating.

Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Africa Command, would not comment on the makeup of the troop detachment for operational security reasons.

Last week, fighting between troops loyal to South Sudan’s president and its vice president spilled into the streets of Juba, South Sudan’s capital. Hundreds were reportedly killed and many fled to nearby United Nations camps, some of which came under mortar and machine-gun fire by Sudanese forces.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he was “appalled” at the recent attacks on U.N. personnel and condemned the killing of two Chinese peacekeepers and one U.N. staff member.

“Let me underscore, again, to all those leading and perpetrating these hostilities that acts of violence perpetrated against civilians and United Nations and humanitarian personnel, assets and premises may constitute a war crime,” Ban Ki-Moon said during a Monday news conference.

On Monday, the opposing forces declared a tenuous cease-fire that has held into the week. The world’s newest country, South Sudan was founded in 2011. Two years later, it erupted into a civil war that has since killed tens of thousands and displaced thousands more.

Tuesday’s troop deployment to South Sudan is not the first time U.S. service members have been called to help their fellow citizens in the the war-riddled country. In 2014, U.S. Marines flew from their base in Spain and Entebbe, Uganda, with KC-130 and MV-22 transport aircraft to help with the evacuation of roughly 20 people from the American embassy. A year earlier, a flight of Air Force CV-22 Ospreys loaded with U.S. Navy SEALs came under fire while trying to evacuate U.S. citizens from a U.N. camp in Bor, South Sudan. A number of SEALs were wounded when Kalashnikov and heavy machine gun fire tore through the aircrafts’ fuselages.