Man claiming to be LRA commander surrenders in Central African Republic

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2015 3:28 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A man identifying himself as Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander of the Lord's Resistance Army, has given himself up to U.S.-African forces tracking the guerrilla group in the Central African Republic, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was trying to verify whether the man in its custody was Ongwen.

"In coordination with the AURTF (African Union forces), U.S. military forces took custody of an individual claiming to be a defector from the LRA. That individual later identified himself as Ongwen," Psaki said.

"Efforts to establish full and positive identification continue, so I don't have confirmation of that at this point," Psaki added.

She said that if the man in custody proved to be Ongwen, his defection would "represent a historic blow to the LRA's command structure."

U.S. forces have supported a regional task force of African troops since 2011 to track down LRA leader Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in a guerilla war in Uganda and neighboring states.

LRA fighters are known for using extreme violence, including chopping off limbs as a form of punishment, as well as raping young girls and abducting them for use as sex slaves.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Peter Cooney)