KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan forces have killed a former bodyguard of Joseph Kony, a sign they are closing in on the fugitive rebel leader wanted for war crimes, an army commander said on Monday.
Dick Olum, who commands a regional task force hunting the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, said the bodyguard, who went by the name of Brigadier Binani, was killed near the town of Djema in eastern Central African Republic.
"We encountered Brigadier Binani late on Thursday last week and in the ensuing clash his unit dispersed but we managed to kill him in action," Olum told Reuters.
"Every day we are closing in on Kony and when you have such an encounter with his former bodyguard, it is a very strong sign and encouragement that success is in our grasp." He did not say when Binani had ceased to work as Kony's bodyguard.
Kony, a self-styled mystic leader who at one time wanted to rule Uganda according to the Bible's Ten Commandments, fled northern Uganda in 2005, roaming first the lawless expanses of South Sudan, then the isolated northeastern tip of Congo.
The International Criminal Court at The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Kony and his top commanders for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
He is accused of abducting thousands of children and forcing them to fight in a rebel army that earned a reputation for chopping off limbs as a form of discipline.
In December 2008, Uganda launched Operation Lightning Thunder against the LRA, dispersing the rebels and pushing them north into the jungles of Central African Republic where they survive on foraged and stolen food.
A video about Kony by a U.S. filmmaker posted on YouTube last year attracted tens of millions of views, raising the international profile of the hunt for the LRA leader.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)