KHARTOUM - Sudan began evacuating its citizens from South Sudan's Unity State, an oil-rich border region, Friday after days of fierce fighting between political rivals there, state news agency SUNA reported.
The agency said Sudan was evacuating its own citizens and the nationals of other east African states from the town of Bentiu in Unity State following the region's capture by rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
Five flights operated by UN aircraft ferried people to the Sudanese region of Heglig across the border, with the operation set to continue, SUNA said, quoting an official in the Sudanese foreign ministry.
The fighting in the world's newest nation erupted on December 15 after Machar, who was sacked in July, was accused of attempting a coup.
The United Nations says thousands of people have been killed and more than 120,000 forced to flee their homes, including 63,000 sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases.
Clashes have been reported in half of South Sudan's 10 states, with the violence taking on an ethnic dimension and both sides reportedly committing atrocities.
In April, the South Sudanese army occupied the disputed border region for 10 days, leading to the fiercest fighting between Juba and Khartoum since South Sudan achieved independence in 2011.
The United Nations said on Friday that at least 34 bodies had been found in a mass grave in Bentiu.