NAIROBI, Kenya – British, Canadian and Kenyan citizens are among 3,000 foreigners trapped in a South Sudan city experiencing bouts of heavy machine gun fire, one of the most violent areas of a weeklong conflict that has likely killed more than 1,000 people, a top U.N. official said Monday.
Australians, Ugandans and Ethiopians are also among 17,000 people seeking protection at a U.N. base in Bor, a city that could see increased violence in coming days, said Toby Lanzer, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator.
The death toll has likely surpassed 1,000 people, though there are no firm numbers available, he said. The number of internal refugees is probably more than 100,000, said Lanzer, who is seeking urgent financial assistance from the U.S., Britain and other European countries.
“I know there are many thousands of people seeking protection in churches,” Lanzer said. “I know that we have our own staff that have literally walked into the bush and are communicating from there. That’s where they say they are safest.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council late Monday to add 5,500 troops and police to the 7,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, citing growing violence, human rights abuses “and killings fueled by ethnic tensions.”
Ban proposed in a letter to the council obtained by the Associated Press that the troops be transferred from U.N. missions in Congo, Darfur, Abyei, Ivory Coast and Liberia, along with three attack helicopters, three utility helicopters and a C130 military transport plane.
After an emergency Security Council meeting, France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current council president, said the council will vote on a U.S.-drafted resolution authorizing the transfers today. Rebel forces fired on three U.S. military aircraft trying to evacuate Americans from the city of Bor on Saturday, forcing the Ospreys – advanced helicopter-airplane hybrids – to abort their mission. On Sunday, the U.S. evacuated Americans by civilian U.S. and U.N. helicopters.
The U.S. over the last week has evacuated 380 Americans and 300 others from South Sudan.