A senior commander in the rebel army of the world’s most wanted warlord is now in custody, according to Ugandan military officials.
The officials told The Associated Press they captured Joseph Kony’s top military strategist, Ceasar Acellam, Saturday in a brief gun battle in central Africa.
“He’s a very big fish,” said one of the officials who asked to remain anonymous. “He is one of the top division commanders.”
Acellam was taken into custody along with two other rebel fighters in a region near the border between Congo and Central African Republic, the officials said. The officials said the rest of the group of about 30 rebels escaped.
They did not offer further details about exactly how Acellam was captured, and some analysts say it is possible he is a defector who decided to turn himself in.
Joseph Kony gained international attention earlier this year when a viral video about his atrocities in central Africa was viewed more than 100 million times. California-based advocacy group Invisible Children created the video as part of a social media campaign calling for his capture by the end of this year.
For nearly three decades Kony and members of his Lord’s Resistance Army have been attacking rural villages across four central Africa countries and have become notorious for mutilating victims and forcing children to become soldiers and sex slaves. In 2005, he was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Last year, President Obama sent 100 Special Forces troops to central Africa to advise the Ugandan army and other regional armies searching for Kony. Even though it is believed his army has dwindled to less than 300 fighters, the U.S. military said it is possible it could take years to capture him.
The search is proving to be extremely difficult because Kony’s fighters are roaming in a dense jungle in an area the size of California, and they have stopped using phones and radios to avoid detection.
A senior U.N. official said there are indications Kony is feeling the pressure of the stepped up efforts to find him.
Abou Moussa, head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa told reporters Friday defectors have said he is now moving locations nearly every day to avoid capture. Moussa said they have found traces of where he has stayed.
Also last week, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters he is confident Kony will be killed or captured by the end of the year.