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US expects Rwanda to let DR Congo warlord leave

DR Congo warlord Bosco Ntaganda at his mountain base in Kabati, Democratic Republic of Congo, on January 11, 2009
DR Congo warlord Bosco Ntaganda is pictured at his mountain base in Kabati, DR Congo, on January 11, 2009. Washington is working to send Ntaganda, holed up in the US embassy in Rwanda to the International Criminal Court and expects he will be given safe p

Washington is working to send a DR Congo warlord holed up in the US embassy in Rwanda to the International Criminal Court and expects he will be given safe passage, a US official said Tuesday.

Bosco Ntaganda surprised US embassy staff in Kigali on Monday when he walked in off the street and asked for help in reaching the ICC in The Hague where he is wanted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 10 charges committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo include using child soldiers, murder, rape and sexual slavery.

"We did not have any prior notice or any consultations with him to indicate that he would do that. He was a walk-in in the truest sense of the word," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The embassy is working out how to transfer him to The Netherlands, she said, adding it could take "a little bit more time."

"We do expect that the Rwandan government will cooperate in facilitating his transfer to the ICC, consistent with its commitments," she said.

Kigali "I would note that the Ministry of Justice tweeted not too long ago that it will provide safe passage," Nuland told journalists, adding the United States would hold Rwanda "to those expectations."

She added that several hundred members of the M23 rebels had reportedly fled the DR Congo and some of them were now held by Rwandan authorities. But it was unclear whether any others were also asking for transfers to the ICC.

Ntaganda is believed to have been involved in several armed groups in DR Congo, before being incorporated into the regular army and given the rank of general as part of a peace deal.

He defected last year and became involved in the M23 rebel mutiny against Kinshasa, before fleeing to Rwanda, which has been accused by the DR Congo and the United Nations of masterminding, arming and even commanding M23.

A UN report in November said the M23's "de facto chain of command" included Ntaganda and culminated with Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe.

Ntaganda was allegedly involved in the brutal murder of at least 800 people in villages in eastern DR Congo, using child soldiers in his rebel army and keeping women as sex slaves between September 2002 and September 2003.

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