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Uganda military confirms identity of LRA rebel leader who surrendered to US forces

FILE - In this Sunday, April 29, 2012 file photo, a soldier from the Central African Republic looks out over the dense forest as he stands guard at a building used for joint meetings between them and U.S. Army special forces searching for Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), in Obo, Central African Republic. The Obama administration said Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015 that it has taken into custody a man claiming to be Dominic Ongwen, a top member of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, after the man surrendered to U.S. forces in the Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
January 07, 2015 - 6:24 AM

KAMPALA, Uganda - Uganda's military said Wednesday it had confirmed the identify of Lord's Resistance Army rebel commander Dominic Ongwen who surrendered to American troops in Central African Republic.

Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, the Ugandan army spokesman, said soldiers and Ongwen's former colleagues who defected from the LRA had positively identified him.

"I can confirm that he is the one. We have duly identified him. There is no doubt about his identity," Ankunda said. The man turned himself over to U.S. soldiers in Central African Republic on Tuesday, officials in Washington said.

The Uganda's Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, James Mugume, told The Associated Press that a Ugandan legal team was to consult with the International Criminal Court on whether the rebel commander should be moved to The Hague for trial or be tried at home. The LRA's rebellion began in Uganda.

Mugume said the ICC and Uganda government would discuss the ICC "Complementarity Principle," which he said gives states first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes like those allegedly committed by Ongwen.

In the Netherlands, ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AP he had no immediate comment. ICC prosecutors also had no immediate comment on Ongwen's detention.

The ICC warrant of arrest for Ongwen lists seven counts of alleged individual criminal responsibility including crimes against humanity, enslavement, murder and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury.

There was no immediate word on what the Americans had done with Ongwen.

In 2005, the Ugandan military had announced him dead but in 2006 the ICC reported that the genetic fingerprinting confirmed it was not Ongwen.

Ongwen, LRA leader Joseph Kony and three others who have reportedly since died were charged by the ICC.

In Washington, the Obama administration said Tuesday, saying the defection could be a "historic blow" to Kony's nearly three-decade rebellion.

The man surrendered to U.S. military personnel in the Central African Republic, where they are helping African troops hunt for Kony and his fighters, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington on Tuesday. The man said he was an LRA defector and later identified himself as senior commander Dominic Ongwen.

Kony's rebellion, which began in Uganda, is accused of some of the world's worst atrocities including mass killings and keeping girls as sex slaves.

Originating in Uganda in the 1980s as a tribal uprising the government, the LRA's rebellion has become one of Africa's longest and most brutal. At the peak of its powers the group razed villages, raped women and amputated limbs. It is especially notorious for recruiting boys to fight and taking girls as sex slaves.

Military pressure forced the LRA out of Uganda in 2005. The rebels scattered across parts of Central Africa. The insurgency and the Ugandan government's response have left at least 100,000 people dead. The U.N. Security Council said in 2011 the conflict had uprooted more than 440,000 people across the region.

Three years ago, President Barack Obama announced he would send 100 U.S. special forces to help the international pursuit of Kony and other Lord's Resistance Army leaders.

The group is now believed to comprise no more than a few hundred fighters.


AP writer Michael Corder contributed to this report from The Hague, Netherlands.

News from © The Associated Press, 2015
The Associated Press

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