PAMBAYAMBA, Central African Republic—Miles of tangled jungle punctuated by an occasional dirt trail slipped beneath the landing struts of the Bell helicopter. Nothing seemed to stir below. No people. Few animals save for some cows here and there. Three hours into the flight from Obo, a small town in the Central African Republic, the brown, thatch-roofed huts of a village appeared out of the jungle. With a sharp bank, the helicopter circled the village before setting down nearby. Climbing out, seven U.S. Special Forces soldiers unloaded gear as a small crowd gathered to greet them.
The team was just beginning a three-day mission to search for fighters of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group notorious for war crimes, especially kidnapping children, in the area. Okot George Odek, an LRA commander, turned himself in at the village a few months before the team’s March visit.
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