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Army captures militia commander

BUNIA , 17 May 2006 (IRIN) - Congolese soldiers in the restive northeastern district of Ituri have captured a "brigade commander" of the former militia Union des Patriotes Congolais(the Congolese Patriotic Union) which was led by Thomas Lubanga, currently awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court.

The army captured Innocent Kahina, alias "Indian Queen", during an ambush on Tuesday at a locality known as Dhengo, 60 km north of Bunia, the main district town.

"We have wounded him seriously. Four others are dead," Capt Oliver Mputu, an army liaison officer and spokesman in Ituri, said.

No causalities were reported on the army's side.

Mputu said Kahina had been taken to Bunia for treatment. According to witnesses, Kahina sustained a bullet wound in his hip.

Kahina has allegedly been leading operations of the newly-formed militia alliance known as the Mouvement Révolutionnaire congolais-MRC (the Congolese Revolutionary Movement) in the areas surrounding Lake Albert, near the border with Uganda.

"Last week, he was nearly killed in fighting between two army battalions and militia in the Kafe locality, almost 60 km near the lake," Mputu said.

From Kafe, Mputu said, Kahina headed north to Dhengo with his band, where they were ambushed.

Since 1 April - the deadline for the disarmament and community reinsertion plan for former combatants belonging to various armed Ituri groups - the government has deployed six army brigades, backed by some 4,700 United Nations troops to pursue the militia.

These militia groups are, collectively, thought to number 4,000 fighters in Ituri. They have joined forces and formed a new body, the MRC.

Over a five year period, conflict in Ituri has caused the deaths of at least 50,000 civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more.

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