WASHINGTON — Four American troops were injured Saturday when their aircraft came under fire over South Sudan, where they were attempting to evacuate American citizens. The mission was aborted.
The military said three aircraft were attacked by small arms fire from the ground as they were approaching Bor. All three aircraft sustained damage in the attack, the military said in a statement Saturday.
The aircraft, tilt-rotor osprey, were able to divert to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded American servicemen were then transferred to Air Force C-17 planes and flown to Nairobi, Kenya for treatment. The four were treated and are in stable condition, the military said.
The U.S. forces were part of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.
Bor is the Jonglei state capital and the scene of intense fighting for the past week.
South Sudanese officials blamed the attack on American aircraft on rebels. The U.S. military identified the ground fire as coming from "unknown forces."
The country has been wracked by violence for a week after an attempted coup triggered fighting between rival ethnic groups. The violence has killed hundreds and has world leaders worried that a full-blown civil war could ignite in South Sudan.
The U.S. aircraft was hit a day after a U.N. helicopter was downed by small arms fire in the same state. Rob McKee, operations manager for Warrior Security, a South Sudan security company, told the Associated Press the helicopter was trying to evacuate personnel from a base in Yuai, Jonglei state on Friday.
Earlier this week, President Obama dispatched U.S. troops to help protect the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Juba. The U.S. Embassy organized at least five emergency evacuation flights to help U.S. citizens leave the country. Other countries like Britain, Germany and Italy also helped citizens evacuate.
Contributing: The Associated Press