Bernard Munyagishari, a former Hutu militia leader accused of planning the killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, was arrested Thursday in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He had been at large for 17 years.
He was caught by the Congolese army and a tracking team in North Kivu, in the eastern part of DRC, where many of the masterminds of the genocide are believed to be hiding out, BBC News reported.
Munyagishari, 52 years old, operated in Gisenyi, in the west of the country, where he had been a schoolteacher and football referee. He is accused of being the leader of the Interahamwe militia in the region, and allegedly trained and armed fighters and instigated attacks on people who sought shelter in churches. He also allegedly operated a militia arm that raped and tortured women, according to the Guardian. He is charged with genocide, murder and rape and is expected to be transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a court set up in Tanzania to try leaders of the genocide.
The court said: "The accused is alleged to have recruited, trained and led Interahamwe militiamen in mass killings and rapes of Tutsi women in Gisenyi and beyond, between April and July 1994."
During that time, he was often seen armed with a club and guns and wearing a military uniform, though he was never a member of the Rwandan armed forces. He was secretary general of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development for the city of Gisenyi and president of the Interahamwe militia for the Gisenyi prefecture.
About 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the Rwandan genocide in 100 days.The victims were often referred to as "cockroaches," according to the Guardian.
The arrests of Munyagishari and of the Bosnian Serb Ratko Mladic earlier Thursday leave ten of the highest-profile war-crimes fugitives still at large, according to Salon.com. Nine of them were allegedly involved in war crimes in Rwanda; one in European war crimes.