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South Sudan at 'precipice' amid violence: Obama

JUBA -- U.S. President Barack Obama warned that South Sudan stands at the “precipice” of civil war amid spiraling violence, with the U.N. launching a rescue mission after three Indian peacekeepers were killed.

The United Nations Security Council readied emergency consultations on the rapidly fledgling nation Friday, amid growing fears the country was sliding towards all-out civil war.

The U.N. in South Sudan reported 14 separate sites of fighting or civil unrest on Friday, many in the troubled eastern state of Jonglei, with 34,000 civilians sheltering in or around U.N. bases.

Obama, who announced he had deployed 45 troops to the violence-wracked country, called for an immediate end to the strife.

“Recent fighting threatens to plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past,” he said.

Over two million people died in the brutal 1983-2005 civil war, which ended in a peace deal that paved the way for the South's independence two years ago.

Recalling the promise and hopes that accompanied South Sudan's independence in July 2011, Obama warned “that future is at risk.”

“South Sudan stands at the precipice,” the president said, promising that the United States would remain Juba's “steady partner.”

India's U.N. envoy Asoke Mukerji said three Indian peacekeepers were “targeted and killed” during Thursday's attack by ethnic Nuer youths on a base at Akobo in Jonglei state.

Other casualties are feared as the fate of more than 30 ethnic Dinka civilians sheltering at the base is not known, said U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

The U.N. mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said Friday it had sent four helicopters to pull out some 40 U.N. peacekeepers out of Akobo, saying it has “had received assurances from forces in charge” of the remote town they would not be attacked.

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