In this photo taken Wednesday, soldiers of the East Africa Response Force depart from a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules in Juba, South Sudan, to support an ordered departure of personnel from the city. (Tech. Sgt. Micah Theurich/AP)
Three of the four U.S. troops injured Saturday when their CV-22 Ospreys were hit with small-arms fire in South Sudan are expected to be transferred Monday to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Army Col. Steve Warren said all four service members received gunshot wounds to their lower extremities.
The wounded were initially treated by U.S. critical care air transport teams in Nairobi, Kenya, Warren said Monday. One is not yet prepared to make the trip to Germany but will be transferred when his condition improves, Warren said.
A senior Defense Department official, speaking on background, said the wounded service members are in the Navy, but could not say if they were special operations troops. The Associated Press, however, is reporting all four of the injured troops are Navy SEALS.
Three CV-22s, the Air Force Special Operations variant of the tilt-rotor aircraft, were hit with small-arms fire while approaching a site to evacuate U.S. personnel in the South Sudanese capital of Bor. The aircraft aborted their mission and diverted to an airfield outside the country, the Pentagon said.
The State Department said Sunday that four chartered flights and five military aircraft were able to evacuate about 380 U.S. officials and more than 300 citizens of other countries to Nairobi and other countries.
The military and renegade troops have been clashing in South Sudan, with Bor and the state of Jonglei the site of the nation’s worst violence.
About 45 soldiers from the East Africa Response Force, based on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, were sent to South Sudan on Wednesday to help secure U.S. personnel and facilities, the senior defense official said. They are expected to remain until they are “no longer needed,” the official said.
The soldiers are believed to be from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, which is regionally aligned with U.S. Africa Command.
Warren said AFRICOM is “reposturing” its forces in the region to respond to more calls for help from the State Department.
This includes, at the direction of Army Gen. David Rodriguez, commanding general of AFRICOM, moving elements from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response from Moron, Spain, to Camp Lemonnier.
President Obama in a Sunday letter to Congress said that he may take further action to ensure the security of U.S. personnel in South Sudan.