7 January 2015
Last updated at 10:53
African troops, backed by US forces, have set up a special unit to hunt Joseph Kony and the LRA
Uganda’s military has confirmed that a senior commander in the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) movement has been taken into custody by US forces.
The army spokesman told the BBC that soldiers had visited Dominic Ongwen, who surrendered in the Central African Republic, to formally identify him.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) wants to put Mr Ongwen on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He is considered by some to be a deputy commander to LRA chief Joseph Kony.
The LRA has abducted thousands of children in northern Uganda, and neighbouring countries, forcing the boys to become fighters and the girls to become sex slaves.
The US first deployed about 100 special forces in 2011 to support thousands of African troops searching for LRA commanders in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Who is Dominic Ongwen?
- Said to have been abducted by LRA, aged 10, as he walked to school in northern Uganda
- Rose to become a top commander
- Accused of crimes against humanity, including enslavement
- ICC issued arrest warrant in 2005
- Rumoured to have been killed in the same year
- US offered $5m (£3.3m) reward for information leading to his arrest in 2013
Earlier, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that when the man surrendered, he said was an LRA defector.
“In co-ordination with the AURTF (African Union forces), US military forces took custody of an individual claiming to be a defector from the LRA. That individual later identified himself as Ongwen,” she told reporters in Washington.
“If the individual proves to be Ongwen, his defection would represent a historic blow to the LRA’s command structure.”
Ugandan army spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda told the BBC that Ugandan soldiers had confirmed Mr Ongwen’s identity after visiting him in the town of Obbo in the east of the CAR.
Mr Ongwen is said to have commanded the LRA’s Sinia Brigade which has been blamed for some of the worst atrocities the group carried out in northern Uganda.
Joseph Kony and the LRA have waged war in Uganda and the region for more than two decades.
He says the LRA is fighting to install a government in Uganda based on the Biblical Ten Commandments.
The group first emerged in Uganda but its estimated 200-500 fighters have terrorised large swathes of DR Congo, South Sudan and the CAR.
Joseph Kony is wanted by the ICC for rape, mutilation and murder of civilians, as well as forcibly recruiting children to serve as soldiers and sex slaves.
Mr Ongwen himself has claimed he was snatched by the LRA as a child.
In 2013 the US offered a reward of up to $5m (£3.3m) for information leading to the arrest or capture of Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen and another LRA leader, Okot Odhiambo.
Then, in March last year, the US announced it was sending military aircraft and more special forces to help track down the LRA leadership.