LRA kills 20 in northern Congo raid
Dozens of LRA fighters attacked the headquarters of the Garamba National Park in in Congo's Orientale province, late on Friday.
Twenty people were killed in a raid by Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels on a park ranger station in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said on Monday.
Dozens of LRA fighters attacked the headquarters of the Garamba National Park in the town of Negero, in Congo's Orientale province, late on Friday.
"Ten people were killed, including two women, two park rangers, an electrician and five other civilians who have not yet been identified," Orientale's Deputy Governor Joseph Bangakya told Reuters.
Ten rebels were also killed in the four-hour gunbattle with armed park rangers and Congolese soldiers based at Negero's airstrip as part of a three-week-old multinational assault on LRA strongholds in northeastern Congo, Bangakya said.
In two separate attacks on Sunday, LRA gunmen raided a protestant mission in the Congolese village of Napopo and attacked Laso, a village in Sudan, local officials said. It was not immediately clear whether anyone died in the incidents.
Forces led by Uganda and including Congolese and South Sudanese soldiers began bombing LRA bases in the park on Dec. 14 after the rebels' leader Joseph Kony again failed to sign a deal to end his rebellion against Uganda's government.
The operations received the unanimous blessing of United Nations Security Council member states. Ugandan and Congolese officials have said the offensive succeeded in destroying most of the LRA's bases in Congo.
However, coalition forces have so far failed to locate Kony, who along with two deputies is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and his rebellion is now waging a brutal campaign against local villagers.
Fleeing LRA fighters killed at least 271 people in a series of week massacres that forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
A Catholic humanitarian charity Caritas said it believed more than 400 people died in the attacks on the towns of Doruma and Faradje, which had been left undefended by coalition forces.
"The number of dead just keeps going up. Since the beginning of these operations, it is the civilians who are dying," said Felicien Balani, who heads a coalition of civil society groups.
Estimated to number between 800 and 1,000 fighters, Ugandan and Congolese officials say the LRA has now splintered into smaller groups. Some are believed to be heading towards neighbouring Central African Republic, where the rebels have carried out raids in the past.
"We are facing criminal behaviour by fleeing forces. A deployment is underway. But we are there in a vast territory, and it's being done at the rhythm of our air capabilities," Congo's Information Minister Lambert Mende said.
Uganda has said it is sending more troops to the area to prevent more LRA raids.
The LRA was driven out of northern Uganda, where its two-decade bush war killed thousands of people and displaced 2 million, but the group has continued to carry out raids in Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic.
Reuters Last Mod: 05 Ocak 2009, 16:45