UK sends plane to evacuate Britons from South Sudan

LONDON (AFP) - The British government on Thursday sent a plane to South Sudan to evacuate Britons seeking to flee the fierce fighting that has killed hundreds of people this week, the Foreign Office said.

"A UK aircraft is en route to Juba to evacuate British nationals who wish to leave from Juba airport on Thursday," a ministry spokeswoman said.

"To date over 150 British nationals have contacted us, many of whom want help leaving the country." Britain had said on Wednesday it was temporarily withdrawing some staff from its embassy in South Sudan's capital Juba, but the Foreign Office spokeswoman said those on the plane would also include non-diplomats.

The United States has used two C-130 military transport planes and a charter aircraft to fly 150 Americans as well as US and foreign diplomats out of the world's newest nation, the State Department said.

Britain has advised its citizens not to travel to Juba and the surrounding area. Its embassy remained open on Thursday but the Foreign Office said it was "revising its status on a constant basis".

There are rising fears that South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in 2011, could slide back into civil war. Thousands of terrified civilians have fled their homes since clashes broke out on Sunday between rival army factions.

President Salva Kiir has blamed the violence on a coup attempt by his arch-rival, former vice-president Riek Machar, whom he sacked in July.