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UN Confirms Death of Peacekeepers in South Sudan

The United Nations says two of its peacekeepers have been killed in South Sudan, where tens of thousands of civilians have fled to U.N. bases to escape fighting some fear could escalate into a civil war.

A U.N. statement Friday said two Indian peacekeepers "were killed in action" during an attack on one its bases in the town of Akobo in Jonglei state. It said another was wounded.

Earlier, India's U.N. envoy Asoke Mukerji said a total of three peacekeepers were "targeted and killed" when the compound was attacked by armed youths from the Nuer ethnic group. The reason for the discrepancy is not clear.

The fate of the 30 ethnic Dinka civilians sheltering at the base is also not known. The U.N. says it is sending helicopters to Akobo Friday to evacuate remaining personnel and evaluate the situation.

President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, has accused ex-Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup this week on the army headquarters in Juba, setting off days of violence that the government says has killed 500 people.

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.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says 34,000 people have taken refuge at its bases across the country. It is reporting fighting in at least 14 different locations.

Thursday, the government said it was in complete control of the situation. But it later acknowledged that rebelling soldiers had seized control of Bor, a key town north of Juba.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon says urgent political dialogue is necessary to end the conflict. 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 on Mr. Kiir to resign.

Mr. Kiir was set Friday to meet with regional mediators from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development group, which flew to South Sudan a day earlier. The group was instrumental in mediating a 2005 agreement that ended Sudan's civil war with what was then its southern region.

The U.N. Security Council is also expected to hold emergency talks on the crisis Friday.

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