The second in command of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels, Vincent Otti, is dead, south Sudan's deputy leader Riak Machar has confirmed.
There has been speculation over Mr Otti's fate since November 2007
"I was officially informed by [LRA leader] Joseph Kony that Vincent Otti is dead," said Mr Machar, who is mediating peace talks in south Sudan.
He broke the news after meeting members of LRA negotiating team, following their return to the talks venue.
The LRA had previously insisted Mr Otti was alive and under house arrest.
Mr Machar, who has been mediating the peace talks in the southern Sudanese capital, Juba, since they began in July 2006, said he was told of Mr Otti's death by a special envoy sent by Mr Kony.
"The word used was that Mr Vincent Otti is absent. And when I asked if "absent" was dead, they said yes," Mr Machar told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.
"They did not tell me whether he was killed or he died of disease," he said.
His statement is the first authoritative confirmation of deputy LRA leader's death, which Mr Machar said probably occurred on the 3 November.
Late last year, Mr Kony said Mr Otti was under arrest for being a government spy.
But a diplomatic briefing, based on witness testimony, alleged Mr Otti was executed by fellow officers on Mr Kony's orders.
Mr Machar also confirmed that the LRA has changed its negotiating team, with David Masonga taking over from Martin Ojul as the team leader.
Mr Masonga told the BBC that the previous delegation was dragging its feet and not making progress towards a peace settlement, expected by March.
Mr Machar also said that the LRA has given an assurance that they are ready to resume talks as early as next Monday with the Ugandan government.
Mr Otti was one of four other LRA commanders wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed during their 20-year insurgency.
Mr Kony, who is one of those indicted, is in hiding in the remote north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The LRA were notorious for mutilating victims and kidnapping children to be fighters, porters and sex slaves.