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Congo Warlord 'The Terminator' Pleads Not Guilty at ICC


Bosco Ntaganda, a Congo militia leader known as The Terminator, waits for the start of his trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 2, 2015.

A former Congolese rebel leader known as "The Terminator" has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Bosco Ntaganda entered his plea Wednesday on the first day of his trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Prosecutors say Ntaganda is responsible for atrocities committed by his rebel group, the Union of Congolese Patriots, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 and 2003.

He faces 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, including charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlistment of child soldiers and forcible transfer of population.

The attacks in Congo's Ituri province allegedly targeted specific ethnic groups such as the Lendu, Bira, and Nande. One alleged co-conspirator was Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012 after being convicted of conscripting child soldiers.

The ICC is also investigating allegations of crimes by Ntaganda and his militia in Congo's North Kivu province, but they are not part of this trial.

Ntaganda remained at large for seven years after his indictment was issued in 2006, irritating judicial officials with occasional appearances in public. He later founded the Congolese rebel group M23.

In a surprise move, he surrendered at the U.S. embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2013. Experts say he may have turned himself in because infighting within M23 caused him to fear for his life.

Prosecutors have called dozens of witnesses to testify against him, including a number of former child soldiers.

The trial is expected to last several months. Presentation of evidence is expected to begin September 15.

Some materiral for this report came from AFP and Reuters.