KINSHASA — A militia leader accused of kidnap, rape and cannibalism in Democratic Republic of Congo was killed on Monday alongside four other people during a firefight as he sought to escape his army captors, the government said.
Paul Sadala, a poacher-turned-militia leader known as “Morgan” who operated in Congo's Orientale province, surrendered on Saturday with around 40 of his followers.
He was being brought by the army to the town of Bunia when he attacked the soldiers escorting him, government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters.
“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” he said.
Mende said that Morgan was taken by helicopter for treatment but died on the way from excessive bleeding.
Morgan has repeatedly attacked populations in the Okapi Fauna Reserve, a World Heritage site, since 2012.
U.N. experts said in December he switched his focus from poaching elephants to attacking gold mines. They accuse him and his men of kidnapping people to carry looted goods and of forcing women into being sexual slaves for militia members.
They said in another report last July that former captives had told them the group, known as “Mai Mai Morgan”, had engaged in cannibalism on several occasions.
Morgan's militia is just one part of a complex and deadly network of armed groups in Congo's lawless east. Most of these groups finance their operations by competing for control of Congo's vast deposits of minerals, including gold, diamonds, tin, copper and coltan.
In November, the Congolese army, alongside U.N. peacekeeping troops, defeated the main M23 rebel group, seen as the greatest threat to President Joseph Kabila in more than a decade.
The government has had an arrest warrant out for Morgan since November 2012 on charges of war crimes and crimes of sexual violence.
Government spokesman Mende said earlier on Monday that not all of Morgan's followers had surrendered and urged them to do so. Morgan's group operates deep in the jungle, a long way from where M23 was based, and its numbers are not known.