BANGUI (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic have arrested a senior leader of the anti-balaka militia, wanted for crimes including murder, rebellion, rape and looting, the country’s senior prosecutor said on Sunday.
Rodrigue Ngaibona, known as Andilo, was detained in Bouca, around 300 km (195 miles) north of the capital Bangui on Saturday.
Central African Republic was plunged into chaos when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013. Abuses under their brief rule spawned a backlash from the Christian and animist anti-balaka.
A U.N. commission of inquiry, in a report published this month, found that the anti-balaka had committed ethnic cleansing in their attacks on the Muslim minority. Nearly the entire Muslim population living in the south fled the violence.
“Andilo is currently the most enigmatic, feared and powerful military commander of the anti-balaka,” U.N. experts wrote in a report released in October.
Prosecutor Maurice Dibert Dollet said he could potentially be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is investigating the violence in Central African Republic.
He was transferred to Bangui overnight and taken into custody by the judicial police, Dollet said in a statement read on state-owned radio. A warrant for his arrest had been issued in May.
Anti-balaka leaders said Ngaibona’s arrest threatened reconcilation efforts, as they say they have transformed their movement into a political party.
“We denounce the disorder in which international community wants to keep us in order to perpetuate the chaos in this country,” said Igor Lamaka, a spokesman for the movement.
Central African Republic remains divided along religious lines, with a government-controlled, Christian-dominated south and a Muslim, rebel-controlled north.
The interim government of President Catherine Samba Panza is due to guide the landlocked country of 4.5 million people to elections next year, with the support of French and U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Alison Williams