Bangui, Central African Republic | AFP | Monday – A rebel group in the Central African Republic has captured and handed over to US forces a commander of the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), one of its leaders said Monday.
“Our forces captured the commander ‘Sam’ at the weekend at Mbangana in the north east,” Mahamat Dea, a leader of the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC), told AFP.
“They called and asked what they should do. We had hoped that Central African and United Nations authorities would be present for the handover,” said Dea.
“But a communication problem meant our men promptly handed him over to US forces” based in the eastern town of Obo.
The handover, which authorities did not immediately confirm, followed recent LRA attacks in the east and northeast resulting in at least one death and dozens of abductions.
A year ago, the FPRC, a splinter faction of the former Seleka rebel group, said it had been behind the arrest of top LRA commander Dominic Ongwen.
Ongwen was transferred to The Hague shortly after he unexpectedly surrendered to US special forces.
International Criminal Court prosecutors earlier this month unveiled 70 war crimes charges against Ongwen, describing him as the “tip of the spear” of the group which sowed terror in northern Uganda.
LRA chief Joseph Kony continues to evade a years-long international manhunt, though much of his army has been dispersed by African Union troops with US support.
According to UN estimates, the LRA slaughtered more than 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children in a bloody rebellion against Kampala that began in 1986.
The LRA emerged in 1987 seeking to overthrow Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and claiming to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group.
But in time it spread its influence across porous regional borders, sowing terror in southern Sudan before moving into northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern Central African Republic in March 2008.
The group profited from widespread unrest in eastern regions of the Central African Republic which had taken hold long before the Seleka, an alliance of rebel factions, overthrew former President Francois Bozize in March 2013.
Those areas lie largely outside the control of the UN’s 10,000-strong MINUSCA peacekeeping mission stationed in main cities.