LRA General Ongwen Surrenders

Dominic Ongwen
Dominic Ongwen

A senior commander in the notorious rebel movement the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Dominic Ongwen has been taken into custody by US forces.

Ongwen is wanted by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He is considered by some to be a deputy commander to LRA chief Joseph Kony.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the man claimed he was an LRA defector.

“In co-ordination with the AURTF (African Union forces), US military forces took custody of an individual claiming to be a defector from the LRA. That individual later identified himself as Ongwen,” she told reporters in Washington.

“Efforts to establish full and positive identification continue. If the individual proves to be Ongwen, his defection would represent a historic blow to the LRA’s command structure.”

UPDF soldiers who are part of the AU force in CAR hunting Kony
UPDF soldiers who are part of the AU force in CAR hunting Kony

Ugandan Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told the Associated Press news agency that the man claiming to be Ongwen was being held in the town of Obo in the east of the CAR.

Ongwen is said to have commanded the LRA’s Sinia Brigade which has been blamed for some of the worst atrocities the group carried out in northern Uganda.

Joseph Kony and the LRA have waged war in Uganda and the region for more than two decades.

He says the LRA is fighting to install a government in Uganda based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.

The group first emerged in Uganda but its estimated 200-500 fighters have terrorised large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the CAR.

LRA's fugitive leader Joseph Kony
LRA’s fugitive leader Joseph Kony

Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for rape, mutilation and murder of civilians, as well as forcibly recruiting children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves.

Ongwen himself has claimed he was snatched by the LRA as a child.

The US first deployed about 100 special forces in 2011 to support thousands of African troops seeking the LRA leader.

In 2013 the US offered a reward of up to $5m (£3.3m) for information leading to the arrest or capture of Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen and another LRA leader, Okot Odhiambo.

Then, in March last year, the US announced it was sending military aircraft and more special forces to help track down the LRA leadership.

African Union-led forces have remained in charge of the operation, with the US supplying an advisory role.

BBC

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