South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar has fled country

Riek Machar crossed the border into neighboring Congo and was airlifted to the capital, Kinshasa, spokesman Mabior Garang said, adding that he was planning to travel to Ethiopia soon. In a Facebook post, the spokesman said Machar left South Sudan after a “botched attempt to assassinate” him. reported.

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The U.N. indicated that Machar had been in danger.

It learned Wednesday that Machar was in Congo, near the South Sudan border, and arranged on humanitarian grounds for the U.N. peacekeeping force there to airlift him, his wife and 10 others, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. He wouldn’t say where they were Thursday, only that they had been handed over to Congolese authorities.

“We have been providing him with whatever medical assistance he needs,” Haq said, without giving details. “He needed to be moved safely from one spot to another,” he added.

A South Sudan presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, said President Salva Kiir had no reaction to the U.N. helping Machar.

Machar had returned to South Sudan in April in a major step toward realizing a peace deal reached in August 2015 under intense international pressure. He immediately took up the vice president post under Kiir that he’d had before the civil war. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, called his return “the best hope that South Sudan has had in a very long time.”

But tensions remained as the recently warring camps were pushed to work together under the peace deal.

In early July, dozens of Machar’s bodyguards were shot dead after gunfire erupted outside the presidential compound where Machar was meeting with Kiir. Machar and fighters supporting him left the city, putting the country’s peace deal in limbo. Hundreds of civilians died in the fighting.