Aide to warlord Kony surrenders as US pulls from mission

US Army special forces members speak with troops from the Central African Republic and Uganda, in Obo, Central African Republic. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2017

Aide to warlord Kony surrenders as US pulls from mission

KAMPALA, Uganda: A key aide to warlord Joseph Kony has surrendered to Ugandan forces, the military said Thursday, shortly after the US indicated it was pulling out of the international manhunt for one of Africa’s most notorious fugitives.
Michael Omona’s surrender to Ugandan forces in Central African Republic “shows the degraded capacity” of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group, said Maj. Kiconco Tabaro, the Ugandan military’s deputy spokesman. Omona was in charge of communications for Kony.
The United States on Wednesday cited the weakening of the LRA for its decision to remove its military forces, which have included dozens of special forces, from the operation.
The US will “transition to broader-scope security and stability activities that continue the success of our African partners,” the US Africa Command said.
Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. One of his former commanders, Dominic Ongwen, is currently on trial at The Hague-based court.
The LRA began as a Ugandan rebel movement in the 1980s but at the peak of its powers was internationally known for its cruelty against civilians in Congo, Central African Republic and what is now South Sudan as well. In 2012, the US-based advocacy group Invisible Children made a highly successful online video highlighting the LRA’s alleged crimes, including the abduction of children for use as sex slaves or fighters.
But the LRA’s active membership has shrunk under pressure and is now under 100, according to the US Africa Command.
Last week the US Africa Command commander, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, declared the hunt for Kony largely over. Most of Kony’s top lieutenants are now off the battlefield, leaving the leader “irrelevant” and in survival mode, he said.
The latest to surrender, Omona, had been abducted by the LRA in 1994 and later became a high-ranking rebel and served as “chief signaler” for Kony.
It was not clear when the US withdrawal would take effect, and the US Africa Command did not respond immediately to questions Thursday.
The US first deployed about 100 US special forces as military advisers in 2011, and in 2014 sent 150 Air Force special operations members and airmen to assist African forces. At the time, their equipment included four CV-22 Osprey aircraft, two C-130 transport planes and two KC-135 refueling aircraft.
The US withdrawal leaves Uganda’s military alone in the mission to shut down the LRA. Uganda currently has about 1,500 troops deployed under an African Union military mission to defeat the rebel group.
Ugandan military spokesman Brig. Richard Karemire said Thursday that Uganda is thankful for US support over the years in efforts to defeat the LRA. Ugandan troops will not immediately pull out of the mission against the rebel group, he said.
AU defense chiefs were meeting Thursday on the fate of the mission.
Karemire insisted that Kony will be a cause for concern as long as he is still alive.


NASA investigating first crime committed in space: report

Updated 25 August 2019

NASA investigating first crime committed in space: report

  • Astronaut Anne McClain is accused of improperly accessing her partner’s private financial records while aboard the International Space Station
  • McClain’s lawyer said the astronaut accessed the account only to monitor the couple’s combined finances

WASHINGTON: US space agency NASA is investigating what may be the first crime committed in outer space, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Astronaut Anne McClain is accused of identity theft and improperly accessing her estranged wife’s private financial records while on a sixth-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the Times said.
The astronaut’s spouse Summer Worden filed a complaint earlier this year with the Federal Trade Commission after learning McClain had accessed her bank account without permission, while Worden’s family filed another with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, according to the newspaper.
McClain’s lawyer said the astronaut had done nothing wrong and accessed the bank records while aboard the ISS in order to monitor the couple’s combined finances — something she had done over the course of their relationship, the Times reported.
NASA investigators have contacted both women, according to the newspaper.
McClain, who returned to Earth in June, gained fame for being one of two women picked for a historic all-female spacewalk, but NASA scrapped the planned walk in March due to a lack of well-fitting spacesuits, sparking accusations of sexism.
Worden said the FTC has not responded to the identity theft report, but that an investigator specializing in criminal cases with NASA’s Office of Inspector General has been looking into the accusation, according to the Times.