DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A senior commander with the rebel group Lord's Resistance Army has defected to villagers in Central African Republic, the U.S. Africa Command said Friday.
The rebel commander defected near the community of Pangbayanga, and is being debriefed in the country by the African Union Regional Task Force and U.S. forces, the command said. No further details were given.
The defecting commander has been a part of the rebel group for more than a decade, though he has not been indicted by the International Criminal Court nor designated under the State Department's War Crimes Rewards Program, said an official with knowledge of the situation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press on the matter.
Ugandan and Congolese troops and U.S. forces, acting as military advisers, are cooperating in the hunt for the rebels, including fugitive Ugandan LRA warlord Joseph Kony, in the jungles of Central Africa.
Originating in Uganda in the 1980s as a tribal uprising against the government, the LRA's rebellion is 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.
The group is reportedly in decline, with many of its fighters surrendering or dying in firefights with African troops across Central Africa.
Dominic Ongwen, one of the most senior commanders in Kony's army, is the only member in the ICC's custody. A hearing started in January to determine if evidence is strong enough to merit putting him on trial.
Ongwen was indicted in 2005 and sent to the court a year ago after surrendering to U.S. forces in Central African Republic.