South Sudan Opposition Leader Fled to Congo, United Nations Says

South Sudanese opposition leader Riek Machar fled to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and was transported within that country by a United Nations peacekeeping mission, according to the global body.

The UN was “aware” on Wednesday of Machar’s presence in Congo and contacted that country’s government, which requested the local mission “facilitate his extraction and transfer to the care” of Congolese authorities, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters in New York, according to a transcript. Machar’s wife and 10 others were also transported in an operation to which the leader consented, Haq said.

A spokesman for Machar on Thursday said the former vice president had escaped to a nearby country. The ex-rebel leader had returned to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, in April to resume the role of deputy to President Salva Kiir in an internationally backed transitional government seeking to end a more than two-year civil war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives in the oil-producing nation.

Machar and his troops were forced out of the city by fighters loyal to Kiir during about five days of fighting in early July. A faction of Machar’s group later named as its chief Taban Deng Gai, who Kiir accepted as his new vice president. Conflict broke out in Africa’s newest country in December 2013 with the ruling party and army fracturing after Kiir accused rivals including Machar of plotting a coup against him.

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