UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UGANDA: LRA rebels kill 24, maim eight in fresh attacks
KAMPALA, 28 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Days after an 18-day ceasefire between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) expired on 22 February, the rebels have killed and maimed more than 30 people, officials told IRIN on Monday.
The Ugandan army spokesman in the northern region, Paddy Ankunda, told IRIN suspected LRA insurgents had killed at least 24 people in several districts since the truce ended. On Thursday, Ankunda added, the rebels sliced off the lips of eight women.
The women, Ankunda said, had left their internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Kitgum District to fetch water from a borehole three kilometers away when the LRA rebels waylaid them.
"The rebels found them there and surrounded them before they cut off their lips," he told IRIN. "One other woman who resisted was killed and her baby left with the mutilated body of her mother."
Ankunda and the chairman of the Kitgum District Council, Norman Ojwee, said the women, who were left bleeding and in severe pain at the borehole, had been admitted to Kitgum's district hospital.
The LRA is notorious for its brutality, particularly in regard to its abduction of children. Relief agencies estimate as many as 20,000 children have been abducted for use as soldiers, porters and sex slaves.
Since peace talks between the government and the LRA began at the end of 2004, the region had experienced a lull in hostilities, with several high-ranking members of the rebel movement surrendering themselves to the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF).
"The situation was getting back to normal and we had started telling people to prepare to decongest some of the [IDP] camps to smaller camps, but now we need to move a little more cautiously," Ojwee said.
UPDF spokesman, Shaban Bantariza, described the rebels as "rural terrorists" and reiterated the army's determination to continue military operations, along with negotiations.
"It is useless to interpret the [Ugandan] peace process through talks alone," Bantariza told IRIN. "The peace is arrived at by militarily eliminating those we cannot save. For those willing to lay down arms, they will be forgiven by the amnesty laws."
Meanwhile, in a fresh military offensive, Ankunda said that on Sunday, the UPDF had killed the LRA director of operations, the self-styled "Colonel" Richard Opoka, as well as nine other rebel fighters in the northern district of Gulu.
"We killed Opoka with nine others and we captured four rebels and recovered some rifles," Ankunda told IRIN.
The LRA has fought the Ugandan government since 1988, a conflict that has killed thousands of people and displaced up to 1.6 million more. The rebels claim to be fighting to replace the government with another based on the biblical 10 Commandments.
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