BANGUI, Central African Republic – Authorities flew a commander from a fearsome Ugandan rebel group known for abducting and torturing children out of Africa on Tuesday to The Hague where he is to face war crimes charges, officials with the International Criminal Court said.
In a statement released only after Dominic Ongwen was in the air, ICC authorities said the rebel commander would be held at a detention center in the Netherlands until his trial. Ongwen is to undergo a medical visit upon arrival and a date will soon be set for his first court appearance, authorities said.
His extradition comes nearly a decade after authorities first charged him and four other top commanders with the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group. Three have since died and only top leader Joseph Kony remains at large.
"The affected communities will have the opportunity to see international justice address the horrific violence that took place in Uganda," said Sidiki Kaba, president of the ICC's governing body.
Ongwen has been accused of terrorizing civilians in Uganda and in parts of Central African Republic and Congo. For more than 25 years the LRA has terrorized central Africa with a campaign of killings, torture, kidnappings, using child soldiers and sex slaves.
After years of hiding in the remote forests of central Africa, Ongwen said it was time to face the charges against him.
"I did not want to die in the bush, so I decided to follow the right path and listen to the calling of the ICC," said Ongwen, in the Acholi language on a video taken by the Ugandan army.
Ongwen's surrender is seen as a severe blow to Kony and the LRA, who are being hunted down by the Ugandan army with help from American military advisers.
The U.S. also placed a $5 million reward for information leading to Ongwen's capture. Rebels in a remote corner of Central African Republic where he was found say they handed him over to authorities and now deserve the reward money.