95 Pinoys in S. Sudan urged to go home as crisis escalates

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Monday, December 23, 2013

MANILA -- The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday raised the crisis alert level 3 in South Sudan, urging about 95 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to seek repatriation.

"DFA Secretary del Rosario today raised crisis alert level for South Sudan from 2 to 3," said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez.

Hernandez said the order was issued on the heels of the seizure of rebels of South Sudan's Unity State region.

Under alert level 3, Filipinos in South Sudan are being urged to seek repatriation through the Philippine Embassy in Kenya or with the Rapid Response Team, which will depart tonight.

Filipinos are also being advised to defer travel to South Sudan even as a total deployment ban for OFWs is expected to be imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

On Sunday, South Sudan's government announced that the rebels have already seized the capital of the Unity State, Bentiu.

It was last week when clashes erupted between rival camps after South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of attempting a coup.

South Sudan
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan.(AP Photo/UNMISS, Hailemichael Gebrekrstos)

United Nations diplomats said at least 500 people have been killed. As many as 20,000 people have sought refuge with the U.N mission in the capital, Juba.

Kiir told the nation last Monday that a group of soldiers loyal to Machar, whom he fired in July amid a power struggle, tried to take power by force but were defeated. He also ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the capital.

The alleged coup attempt took place Sunday when some soldiers raided the main army barracks' weapons store in Juba but were repelled by loyalists, sparking gunfights across the city, Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the Associated Press.

Benjamin said South Sudanese military has arrested five political leaders with suspected links to the coup attempt, and many more are still being sought.

South Sudan has been plagued by ethnic tension since it broke away from Sudan in 2011. In the rural Jonglei state, where the government is trying to put down a rebellion, the military itself faces charges of widespread abuses against the Murle ethnic group. (HDT/with reports from AP/Sunnex)

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