BANGUI (Reuters) - Seleka rebels in Central African Republic want the United States to pay them a bounty of up to $5 million (3.3 million pounds), saying they were the ones who captured fugitive Ugandan Lords Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen.
U.S. forces helping African nations track the LRA across Central Africa said earlier this week that they had detained a man claiming to be Ongwen, a rebel chief wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Uganda says it has confirmed the man in custody is Ongwen, an ex-child soldier who rose through the ranks of the LRA to become a senior commander.
The U.S. government had offered a reward of “up to $5 million” for information leading to the arrest, transfer or conviction of Ongwen under its Rewards for Justice programme.
The mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group, which was forced from power in CAR last year, says it handed Ongwen to U.S. officials after capturing him in a battle.
“We were the ones who brought him to our base. The Americans came with two helicopters, one of which landed to pick up the prisoner,” Mounir Ahmat, Seleka commander in the northern town of Sam Ouandja, told Reuters.
“We still haven’t received the reward promised for the capture of Dominic Ongwen. I called the Americans this morning and they promised to come back in two days time,” he added.
The U.S. government, which offers bounty for high-level fugitives, said it would not comment on these payments for reasons of security and confidentiality. But the State Department said on Friday it wants Ongwen to face justice for alleged crimes.
Ugandan officials have said Ongwen will be flown to Uganda pending a decision on what happens next, highlighting a potential tug-of-war over what to do with him.
The LRA rose up against the government in northern Uganda under the leadership of Joseph Kony in the late 1980s.
Having earned a reputation for carrying out massacres and mutilating victims, the LRA left Uganda about a decade ago and has roamed across parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and CAR since then, eluding efforts to defeat them.
Members of Seleka, a coalition of rebels that seized power in CAR in March 2013, have scattered across the north of the country since they were forced to quit the capital, Bangui, amid waves of violence between Muslims and Christians.
Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Tom Brown