Violence spurs Japan to evacuate workers from South Sudan

July 12, 2016

In this photo taken Sunday, July 10, 2016, black smoke is seen rising above the capital Juba, in South Sudan. Explosions and heavy weapons gunfire are shaking South Sudan's capital Juba Monday in the fifth day of clashes between government and opposition forces, raising the specter of a return to civil war. (Iain McLellan via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan has urged dozens of Japanese nationals including aid workers in South Sudan’s capital of Juba to leave the country and dispatched military aircraft to evacuate them amid renewed fighting in the African nation.

Japan sent transport aircraft to Djibouti on Africa’s eastern coast, though it’s unclear how they will travel the 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) between Juba and Djibouti. The three C-130s, which left their base in Komaki 260 kilometers (130 miles) southwest of Tokyo late Monday, are expected to pick up about 70 Japanese nationals from Juba.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday that the government was doing its utmost to protect the Japanese. He said Japanese defense troops building roads and infrastructure will stay for the time being.

About 350 Japanese troops are there as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations. They are in their camp and safe, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, a government-funded organization, said its more than 40 staffers were safe and standing by at home to be evacuated. JICA contractors were killed in a militant attack in Bangladesh this month.

The agency said the decision to pull out was not because of the Bangladesh attack, but because of the deteriorating safety situation in Juba.

Update hourly