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20 Civilians Feared Dead in South Sudan Base Attack

The United Nations says at least 20 civilians were killed during an attack on a U.N. base in South Sudan that also left two Indian peacekeepers dead.

The attack happened Thursday in the town of Akobo.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan says about 2,000 armed youth, believed to be ethnic Nuers, surrounded the base and opened fire. The U.N. says they were apparently aiming at members of the Dinka ethnic group who had sought refuge at the compound.

The mission says peacekeepers tried to negotiate with the assailants but came under "sustained attack."

U.N. sources in New York tell VOA that 43 peacekeepers were at the base. The sources say they were basically overrun by the attackers.

The U.N. says about 35,000 civilians have sought shelter at U.N. bases in South Sudan, after unrest erupted in the country earlier this week.

President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, has accused ex-vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup. The government says violence in Juba this week has killed at least 500 people.

Mediators from East African countries held talks with President Kiir on Friday to discuss ways to end the spiraling unrest. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said the meeting was productive but did not provide details.

The mediators are with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. The East African bloc was instrumental in mediating a 2005 agreement that ended South Sudan's civil war with its then southern region.

President Kiir has said he is willing to hold talks with Machar, his long-time rival whom he fired as his deputy in July. Machar has called for Mr. Kiir's removal from office.

U.N. special representative Hilde Johnson called Thursday's attack in Akobo a "criminal act for which the responsible must be held accountable."

The U.N., on Friday, said it had begun sending helicopters to Akobo to evacuate remaining personnel and evaluate the situation.

Also, the U.N. Security Council held consultations on South Sudan's unrest.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday called for an immediate end to the fighting, warning it threatens to "plunge South Sudan back into the dark days of its past."

He also announced that a group of 45 U.S. troops have been sent to help protect the American embassy and interests in the country.

The U.S. embassy has been flying staff and American citizens out of Juba.

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