'A soldier, not The Terminator'
Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda told his war crimes trial yesterday that he was ''a soldier, not a criminal'', breaking his silence for the first time since surrendering to the International Criminal Court. "I have been described as 'The Terminator', an infamous killer, but that is not me," Ntaganda said on the second day of his trial at The Hague court."I am a soldier ... not a criminal," the 41-year-old former rebel commander insisted, denying 18 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity brought against him for his role in a deadly 2002-2003 conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.The trial is being broadcast by radio stations across the DRC, making this the first time that his alleged victims have been able to hear the former rebel leader defend his actions."I am not the Bosco Ntaganda depicted by the prosecution yesterday [Wednesday]," Ntaganda said, speaking softly in his native Kinyarwanda through an interpreter."I never attacked civilians ... I have always protected them."Ntaganda has pleaded not guilty, but lawyers representing his alleged victims opened yesterday's hearing with harrowing details of horrific abuses they said were committed by his rebel forces.Lawyer Dmytro Suprun told of how one woman tried to crawl away from an attack."They [the soldiers] caught up with her and cut her and her baby to pieces with machetes."On the first day of what is expected to be a lengthy and complex trial, prosecutors showed judges grisly images of bodies littering a banana plantation - people slaughtered, they said, by Ntaganda's Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo. The prosecutors accuse his rebels of terrorising the northeastern Ituri region.Ntaganda has been charged with ordering hundreds of deaths in savage ethnic attacks, as well as with the recruitment and subsequent rape of child soldiers.The trial was adjourned until September 15.