Ugandan forces have captured a senior commander of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army after a brief fight with rebels near the Congo-Central African Republic border, an officer said Sunday.
Lt. Col. Abdul Rugumayo told the Associated Press that Caesar Acellam was captured Saturday with two other rebel fighters.
Rugumayo said they were in a group of about 30 LRA rebels. The others escaped.
Acellam is not one of the LRA commanders indicted with Kony in 2005 by the International Criminal Court, but Ugandan officials say he was Kony's top military strategist.
The Uganda People's Defence Force told Reuters that Achellam, a major general in Kony's band of about 200 fighters, had been captured in an ambush on Saturday along the banks of the River Mbou in the neighboring Central African Republic.
They said Achellam had been armed with just an AK-47 rifle and eight rounds of ammunition. He was being held with his wife, a young daughter and a helper.
The army, which has a force hunting for Kony full-time in the jungles of CAR, backed by American troops, said the capture of Achellam would encourage other fighters to abandon the LRA.
The arrest of Maj. Gen. Caesar Achellam is big progress because he is a big fish. His capture is definitely going to cause an opinion shift within LRA, said Felix Kulaigye, an army spokesman.
A Reuters reporter who accompanied UPDF forces to the CAR said Achellam, who was paraded before media, was walking with a limp, which he attributed to an old wound.
He was returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo when he walked into the Ugandan soldiers' ambush. UPDF said it had been on his trail for a month.
U.S. forces are helping Ugandan troops find Kony and his top lieutenants.
Kony, a self-styled mystic leader who at one time wanted to rule Uganda according to the biblical Ten Commandments, fled northern Uganda in 2005, roaming first the lawless expanses of South Sudan, then the isolated northeastern tip of Congo.
In December 2008, Uganda launched Operation Lightning Thunder, dispersing the rebels and pushing them north into CAR.
Analysts said Achellam was a close ally of Kony who had masterminded the group's relocation from northern Uganda.
From whichever angle you look at it, the loss of Achellam should be very troubling for Kony and a big boost for his manhunt, said Angelo Izama, an analyst who has written extensively on the LRA.