KAMPALA, Uganda -- Ugandan forces captured a senior commander of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army after a brief fight with rebels near the Congo-Central African Republic border, an army official said Sunday, in what an analyst said was an "intelligence coup" for forces hunting for Kony.

Lt. Col. Abdul Rugumayo, intelligence chief for Uganda's military operation against the LRA, said Caesar Acellam was captured Saturday with two other rebel fighters as they tried to cross a river called Mbomu.

Although Acellam is not one of the LRA commanders indicted along with Kony in 2005 by the International Criminal Court, Ugandan officials say he was one of Kony's top military strategists and a reliable fighter.

"He is in good condition," Rugumayo said of Acellam. "He was captured with two other rebels. They were in a group of 30 rebels."

He said the others escaped.

Details of precisely how Acellam was captured were not available, but some analysts said it was possible he had just walked into the hands of Ugandan army officials.

"He's been on the defection shelf for a long time," said Angelo Izama, a political analyst with the Kampala-based security think tank Fanaka Kwawote. "This is a big intelligence coup for the Ugandan army."

A Ugandan army official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said losing Acellam was a big blow to Kony, whose forces have become increasingly degraded by a lack of food and having to constantly move to elude capture.

"He is big fish, very big fish," the official said of Acellam, who has been with the LRA for over 20 years. "He is one of the top division commanders."

The official said Kony, who Ugandan officials suspect to be hiding somewhere in Sudan, has traditionally lived in bush camps significantly far from where his top commanders hide, apparently as a security precaution.

"Kony does not want his commanders near him," he said. "He wants to be alone."

Kony recently became the focus of international attention after the U.S. advocacy group Invisible Children made an online video seeking to make him famous. In 2005 the ICC indicted Kony, along with four other LRA commanders, for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Two of them have since died.

Last year U.S. President Barack Obama sent 100 troops to help regional governments eliminate the LRA. But the manhunt for LRA leaders has proved tough, with the rebels moving in very small groups and avoiding technology. Encounters between Ugandan troops and the rebels are very rare.

Only about 200 LRA members remain the jungle, according to Ugandan officials.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • Self-proclaimed mystic Kony began one of a series of initially popular uprisings in northern Uganda after President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986. But tactics of abducting recruits and killing civilians alienated supporters.

  • The LRA is infamous for kidnapping children for use as soldiers, porters and "wives". Although there are no universally accepted figures, the children are believed to number many thousands. Some are freed after days, others never escape. <br> <em>Trauma counselor Florence Lakor, right, listens to 16-year-old Julius, as he tells of the two years he was forced by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to live as a guerrilla fighter in Sudan and Uganda. (AP)</em>

  • Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 21-year war. A landmark truce was signed in August 2006 and was later renewed. But negotiations brokered by south Sudanese mediators have frequently stalled.

  • The cessation of hostilities has been largely respected, but the guerrilla group has said it will never sign a final peace deal unless the International Criminal Court drops indictments against its leaders for atrocities. <br> <em>Uganda's Interior Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, right, and the head of the government peace talk delegation exchanges documents with the leader of the Lords Resistance Army peace talks delegation Martin Ojul, left, after signing a ceasefire agreement at State House in Kampala, Uganda, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007. (AP)</em>

  • Kony's force was once supported by the Khartoum government as a proxy militia, although Sudan says it has now cut ties with the LRA. Kony left his hideouts in south Sudan in 2005 for the Democratic Republic of Congo's remote Garamba forest. <br> <em>Map shows areas in Africa where the Lord's Resistance Army has had a known presence in the past year. (AP)</em>

  • Many northerners revile Kony for his group's atrocities, but also blame Museveni for setting up camps for nearly 2 million people as part of his counter-insurgency strategy, fuelling one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. <br> <em>Internally displaced people line up to receive food provided by the World Food Programe, Thursday, June 15, 2006 at the Pabbo camp outside Gulu, northern Uganda. (AP)</em>

  • Kony has said he is fighting to defend the Biblical Ten Commandments, although his group has also articulated a range of northern grievances, from the looting of cattle by Museveni's troops to demands for a greater share of political power. <br> <em>Joseph Kony, leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, second right, and his deputy Vincent Otti, right, are seen during a meeting with a delegation of Ugandan officials and lawmakers and representatives from non-governmental organizations, Monday, July 31, 2006 in the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Sudanese border. (AP)</em>