Millions offered to capture DR Congo rebel leader

The United States is offering a reward of up to $5m (£4.1m) for information that helps capture the leader of a rebel group in the east of the Democratic Republic (DR) of Congo which has ties to the Islamic State group.

The US State Department said under the command of Seka Musa Baluku, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had killed, maimed, raped and abducted civilians, includ­ing children. The ADF leader is originally from Uganda, where the group first carried out attacks in the 1990s.

In 2021 the US labelled the ADF a terrorist organ­isation. It is one of dozens of armed groups active in eastern DR Congo.

The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has long been a cradle of rebel activity, often the spill-over of conflict in neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

Among the most notorious groups now operating there is Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The Isla­mist militant outfit was formed in the 1990s and primarily concerned itself with domestic grievances within Uganda.

But after re-emerging in DR Congo, its activity has taken on a more global jihadist dimension, with attacks increasingly being claimed in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group.

The ADF was created in eastern Uganda and took up arms against long-serving President, Yoweri Museveni, alleging government persecution of Muslims. After its defeat by the Ugandan army in 2001, it relocated to North Kivu province in the DR Congo.

Following a period of low-level activity, the ADF re-emerged in 2014 with a series of attacks on Congolese civilians. Musa Seka Baluku became leader in 2015 follow­ing the arrest of his predecessor, Jamil Mukulu.

Baluku reportedly first pledged allegiance to IS in 2016. But it was not until April 2019 that IS first acknowledged its activity in the area when it claimed an attack on army positions near the border with Uganda.

This statement marked the announcement of IS’s “Central Africa Province” (ISCAP), which would later include Mozambique.

While there are indications that IS has co-opted the ADF, IS has never publicly mentioned it by name in its propaganda. In September 2020, Baluku claimed that the ADF had “ceased to exist”. —BBC

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