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Four U.S. troops hurt in South Sudan gunfire

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(CNN) — Four U.S. service members were injured when gunfire hit their aircraft during an attempt to evacuate Americans from a violence-hit South Sudanese city Saturday, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The troops were trying to land in Bor when gunfire from the ground hit the aircraft, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

“The aircraft diverted to an airfield outside the country and aborted the mission. The injured troops are being treated for their wounds,” Kirby said.

The aircraft went to Nairobi, Kenya, so the wounded could be treated, a senior U.S. official said.

The evacuation attempt came after days of deadly clashes in South Sudan, including a reported coup attempt in the capital, Juba, last weekend. Bor also has been the site of heavy fighting, the U.S. official said.

The violence prompted the United States and other nations to take steps to protect their citizens. U.S. President Barack Obama had sent 45 service members to South Sudan to support U.S. personnel and the American Embassy; the government of neighboring Kenya said it would send troops to help evacuate 1,600 Kenyan citizens.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir blamed soldiers loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar, for starting the violence.

Tensions have been high in South Sudan since Kiir dismissed his entire Cabinet, including Machar, in July. The move inflamed deep tensions between Kiir’s Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer community.

Casualties are in the hundreds, including soldiers, the government said.

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