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South Sudan's Machar Flees to DRC

FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar.

South Sudan’s former first Vice President Riek Machar has fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, where he may be ill or injured.

U.N. Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that Machar and a small group of people turned up in the DRC on Wednesday. The U.N. mission there, known as MONUSCO, was alerted to his presence and contacted the Congolese government. The government asked them to facilitate the group’s transfer from an area near the DRC-South Sudan border to a location inside Congo which the U.N. has not revealed.

“We can confirm that an operation was undertaken by MONUSCO on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the extraction of Riek Machar, his wife and 10 others from a location in the DRC in support of the DRC authorities," Haq said.

He said the U.N. Mission in South Sudan played no part in Machar’s arrival in the DRC.

Asked whether Machar required medical care, Haq said “we have been providing him with whatever medical assistance he needs.”

Sources tell VOA that the former leader was either ill, injured or possibly both, when peacekeepers met him in DRC.

Peacekeepers retrieved Machar and his group from the town of Dungu, near to the border of South Sudan, sources told VOA’s South Sudan In Focus. They said he was suffering from exhaustion after having been on the move for weeks.

Machar has been in hiding since early July following clashes between his supporters and government troops in South Sudan’s capital, Juba that killed more than 300 people.

President Salva Kiir fired Machar as first vice president and replaced him with Taban Deng Gai, who was backed by a breakaway faction of Machar’s SPLM-IO movement.