Uganda has captured one of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s top five rebels, bringing it a step closer to catching Joseph Kony, the LRA leader accused of war crimes, the military said on Sunday.
The Uganda People’s Defence Force said Caesar Achellam, a major-general in Mr. Kony’s outfit of about 200 fighters, had been captured in an ambush on Saturday along the banks of the River Mbou in neighbouring Central African Republic.
They said Mr. Achellam had been armed with just an AK-47 rifle and eight rounds of ammunition. He was being held with his wife, a young daughter and a helper.
The army, which has a force hunting for Mr. Kony full-time in the jungles of Central African Republic, backed by American troops, said the capture of Mr. Achellam would encourage other fighters to abandon the LRA.
“The arrest of Major-General Caesar Achellam is big progress because he is a big fish. His capture is definitely going to cause an opinion shift within LRA,” said Felix Kulaigye, UPDF spokesman.
A Reuters reporter who accompanied UPDF forces to Central African Republic said Mr. Achellam, who was paraded before media, was walking with a limp, which he attributed to an old wound.
He was returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo when he walked into the Ugandan soldiers’ ambush. UPDF said it had been on his trail for a month.
Mr. Kony, a self-styled mystic leader who at one time wanted to rule Uganda according to the biblical Ten Commandments, fled northern Uganda in 2005, roaming first the lawless expanses of South Sudan, then the isolated northeastern tip of Congo.
Mr. Kony recently became the focus of international attention after the U.S. advocacy group Invisible Children made an online video seeking to make him famous.
In December 2008, Uganda launched Operation Lightning Thunder, dispersing the rebels and pushing them north into Central African Republic.
Analysts said Mr. Achellam was a close ally of Mr. Kony who had masterminded the group’s relocation from northern Uganda.
“From whichever angle you look at it, the loss of Mr. Achellam should be very troubling for Kony and a big boost for his manhunt,” said Angelo Izama, an analyst who has written extensively on the LRA.