UPDF soldiers hunting Joseph Kony in Central African Republic (CAR) have scored a huge battlefield victory after killing a top LRA commander with 13 fighters in an ambush on Thursday.
The UPDF is part of an African Union Regional Task Force hunting down the rebels in CAR with US technical and logistical support.
Both the African Union office in Addis Ababa and the Regional Task Force (RTF) commander Brig Sam Kavuma yesterday separately confirmed the successful offensive in eastern Central African Republic in which the military said it recovered 10 AK-47 rifles and a general-purpose PK gun, five pistols and more than 10,000 bullets.
Among the communication gadgets captured from the LRA rebels were the advanced high frequency Manpack radio, satellite and cellphone handsets, UPDF deputy spokesman Maj Robert Ngabirano said.
Maj Ngabirano said the UPDF contingent, aided with US-provided intelligence and field logistics, intercepted two LRA rebel groups on the banks of River Vovodo and its Ofoto and Chinko tributaries at about 1:30pm on Thursday.
There are about 100 combat-equipped US Special Forces deployed as field advisors to the AU regional force and have presence in Obbo in CAR, Ddungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nzara in South Sudan.
The two LRA groups were attempting to link up with the main group under Commander Dominic Ongwen, believed to be the deputy to overall LRA commander Joseph Kony, according to security sources.
The army said some of the rebels drowned while fleeing but did not give specifics.
The Sunday Monitor could not independently verify these accounts, and the UPDF made no mention of any casualties on its side.
Officials familiar with the operation, however, told this newspaper that intelligence experts were still analysing an LRA command communication guide the UPDF obtained from the rebels, hoping it will help locate where the most wanted LRA commanders are hiding.
“This [success] leaves the LRA in the most vulnerable position,” said Maj. Ngabirano. “They either renounce the rebellion, release all the kidnapped children and women and surrender or perish in the jungles.”
Thursday’s encounter was the first in a month between any RTF forces and the elusive LRA rebels.
Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the AU Commission chairperson, welcomed the progress made by the RTF, praising the countries and international partners cooperating to defeat the LRA.
“Due to this military pressure, all the LRA top leaders are now on the run as the RTF troops pursue them. Consequently, attacks and abductions by LRA have significantly reduced, while the safety and security of civilians, as well as the overall humanitarian situation, have improved,” the AU said in a statement on Friday.
These developments come on the back of disputed reports that Kony is in talks with interim CAR leader, Michel Djotodia, to surrender.