April 11, 2007 / 1:28 AM / 12 years ago

Congo ex-rebel Bemba flies for treatment in Portugal

Congolese policemen stand in front of a poster of Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa, November 18, 2006. The former rebel leader left Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday on a private jet bound for Portugal, where he is due to have medical treatment, a Reuters witness said. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba left Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, ending three weeks holed up in South Africa’s embassy after his forces were routed in two days of fighting that killed 600 last month.

A Reuters witness said Bemba boarded a private jet bound for Portugal, where he is due to have medical treatment.

A convoy of around 15 armoured vehicles belonging to the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUC) carried Bemba in a convoy across the dark, deserted streets of the riverside capital Kinshasa in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Tanks and blue-helmeted riot police stood guard at the N’Djili airport outside the city, but there were no crowds or violence. The only onlookers were a small group of journalists.

“Upon the request of Congolese authorities and following authorisation to leave national territory from the provisional head of the office of the president of the Senate, MONUC assisted in (Bemba’s) departure,” the spokesman for the U.N. mission, Kemal Saiki, said in a statement.

Bemba, who led a Ugandan-backed rebellion against the Kinshasa government in Congo’s 1998-2003 war, lost a presidential run-off in October to incumbent Joseph Kabila in the vast, mineral-rich central African state’s first free polls in over 40 years.

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