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Obama sends 45 service members to South Sudan

Tells Congress force will protect U.S. citizens and property in war-torn nation

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Amid growing chaos in South Sudan, President Obama has deployed military forces to that country to protect the U.S. embassy and other American assets, he told congressional leaders in a letter Thursday night.

In the letter, Mr. Obama said that on Wednesday, he authorized sending 45 U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan, the world's youngest nation and one that increasingly is being torn apart by violence between rival factions based largely on ethnic lines.

"Although equipped for combat, this force was deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property," Mr. Obama said. "This force will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed. This action has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests."

On Thursday, Indian officials reported that three Indian soldiers were killed by militia groups in South Sudan. International leaders are urging restraint and an end to the violence, as the country, which has only been in existence since 2011, appears to be coming apart at the seams.

"The future of this young nation requires its current leadership to do everything possible to prevent South Sudan descending into the chaos that would be such a betrayal of the ideals behind its long struggle for independence," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

Prior to Thursday's announcement by Mr. Obama, the U.S. already had withdrawn all of its non-emergency personnel from the embassy in Juba, South Sudan's capital.

The safety and security of U.S. facilities abroad has come to the forefront following last year's deadly terrorist attack at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

In that Sept 11, 2012, attack, four Americans were killed, and critics of the administration have pointed to a lack of security at the facility as one reason for their deaths.

-- This article is based in part on wire service reports

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