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Fugitive Congo warlord surrenders to U.S.

| Monday, March 18, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

KIGALI, Rwanda — A Congolese warlord accused of conscripting child soldiers who had lived as an international fugitive for years surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on Monday and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court, a State Department spokeswoman said.

The move marks a major advance in efforts to prosecute Bosco Ntaganda, who had become a symbol of impunity in Africa as he played tennis and lived in an upscale villa in eastern Congo despite the international warrants for his arrest.

Ntaganda walked into the embassy in Kigali on Monday and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed.

She said the United States is consulting with the Rwandan government.

“We want to facilitate that request,” she said. “We strongly support the work that the ICC is doing to investigate the atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And we are going to continue to work with the ICC on this matter.”

The ICC first indicted Ntaganda in 2006. Despite a warrant, he went on to become a general in the Congolese army, living freely in eastern Congo.

The ICC has no police force and has to rely on member states to detain those it indicts.

Congo failed to apprehend him for years, and the United States is not a member.

“If he's actually handed over to the International Criminal Court or a court that would prosecute him, that would be a huge step forward in the fight for justice in eastern Congo,” said Carina Tertsakian, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The allegations against Ntaganda date to crimes allegedly committed a decade ago in northeastern Congo.

However, human rights groups say he has been implicated in other attacks on civilians in eastern Congo during his time as a fugitive.

News of Ntaganda's surrender first came in a tweet and later in an official communique from Rwandan Foreign Minister and government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo.

While Ntaganda was long believed to have enjoyed Rwanda's support, his relationship with the country where he was born has been unclear ever since his rebel movement split into two different factions earlier this month.

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