DR Congo army closes in on wanted general: military
5/4/2012 8:30:05 PM -
GOMA, DR Congo (AFP) - The army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said it was closing in Friday on a farm where a former rebel leader and indicted war criminal Jean Bosco Ntaganda was holed up.
The Congolese armed forces (FARDC) began their move Thursday towards Mushaki, in the Masisi territory of Kivu-Nord province, where they have been fighting since Sunday a group of mutineers seen as loyal to Ntaganda.
The renegade soldiers are former rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), who had subsequently integrated into the army.
Ntaganda was previously a top CNDP commander before the group signed a peace deal in 2009.
"On the Mushaki side, we're occupying two hills that overlook the place," a FARDC colonel told AFP by phone from the scene, where gunshots could be heard close to him. "The mutineers are on other hills but will soon be dislodged."
But about 80 soldiers from the Congolese army defected Thursday, a military source told AFP. The defectors previously belonged to the CNDP, the source said.
"Colonel (Sultani) Makenga and Lieutenant Colonel Masozera defected in the night with their men," in Goma, the Kivu-Nord capital on the Rwanda border, the source said.
In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes including recruiting child soldiers, said he was on the "farm near Mushaki" with the support of the military hierarchy and the knowledge of President Joseph Kabila.
Ntaganda added that he was not concerned when the fighting began at Mushaki on Sunday because he was a military man and he had a personal guard, without giving details of how many soldiers were in it.
The senior officer had joined the army with his CNDP rebels in 2009, after peace accords were signed with the Kinshasa government.
On Wednesday, the governor of Kivu-Nord province, Julien Paluku, said that "everything that is currently happening in Masisi is the responsibility of General Bosco Ntaganda".
Locals accuse Ntaganda's men of killings, rape and looting.