Ugandan rebels kill about 400 in Congo: Aid groupDecember 31st, 2008 - 10:32 am ICT by IANS
Freiburg (Germany), Dec 31 (DPA) A German aid group has said that Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has killed at least 400 people over Christmas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a far higher figure than previously reported.The Catholic charity group, Caritas, in its report Tuesday cited its staff in Dungu-Durama, northeast of Congo, to put the death toll far higher than the 200 reported in some other quarters earlier.
Ugandan Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda backed up the report, saying the LRA had killed between 350 to 400 people in the past few days.
The LRA began its rampage on Christmas Eve, killing civilians in two villages in the troubled African country.
On Dec 26, the LRA guerrillas massacred dozens of people in a church, according to Ugandan military sources and aid workers.
The guerrillas used machetes, swords and clubs to kill the people - amongst them women and children - who had taken refuge in a Catholic church near the border with the Central African Republic.
Caritas said that some 6,500 people in the region had sought shelter from the massacres in Catholic churches.
The charity said that the LRA has not stopped attacking civilians and warned that the death toll could rise.
It was initially believed that only around 90 people had died in the attacks.
The LRA attacks have ramped up since the Congolese, Ugandan and southern Sudanese armies began mid-December ground and aerial attacks on LRA bases in the Garamba national park.
The rebels have been hiding out in Garamba since late 2004 after being flushed out of their bases in southern Sudan.
However, the LRA has said that the bases destroyed in the offensive were empty and that none of the rebel leaders have been killed.
Ankunda said that the troops were hot on the heels of the rebels.
“They are still killing people, but we are closing in on them and we are hunting them down,” he told DPA.
The LRA, led by former lay preacher Joseph Kony, for decades unleashed terror in Uganda’s northern region, where its rebellion has displaced nearly two million people from their homes.
Thousands of civilians died in the conflict, while thousands of children were abducted and forced to fight or serve as sex slaves.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2005 issued arrest warrants for five LRA leaders, including Kony, for trial for murder, torture, rape, abductions and the drafting of children in warfare.
The Ugandan government and the rebels entered into talks to end the war mid-2006, but the rebels have refused to sign the final peace treaty this year.
They insist that The Hague-based court should first withdraw its indictments.
Even before the latest attacks, the rebels were accused of raiding villages in the region and killing and abducting civilians.