Ugandan LRA rebels kill at least 15 in Congo -UN
Ugandan rebels fleeing a multinational offensive have raided a Congolese village and killed at least 15 people, U.N. peacekeepers said.
Ugandan rebels fleeing a multinational offensive have raided a Congolese village and killed at least 15 people, U.N. peacekeepers said on Friday.
Uganda, Congo and South Sudan launched a joint assault on Dec. 14 against bases of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group, in Democratic Republic of Congo. But they have so far failed to corner its reclusive leader, Joseph Kony.
The United Nations mission in Congo (MONUC) said fleeing LRA fighters attacked the village of Faradje, near Congo's porous border with Sudan, on Dec. 24 and 25.
"According to our sources, at least 15 people were killed in the town of Faradje, which suffered looting and destruction of homes," MONUC said in a statement.
A Ugandan military spokesman earlier told Reuters the rebels had killed 35 civilians in five different raids over the two-day period, but this report could not be independently confirmed.
Congo's Foreign Minister Alexis Thambe Mwamba told reporters in Paris earlier this week that he expected to be "totally rid" of the rebels within days.
The joint offensive was launched after Kony, a self-styled mystic, failed again to sign a peace deal to end his rebellion against the Ugandan government. Despite early claims of success, it has so far failed to locate Kony and crush the rebels, infamous for kidnapping women and using children as fighters.
"They are avoiding any possible contact. They are not willing to confront us. They are still elusive," said Captain Chris Magezi, the Ugandan spokesman for the joint operation.
Ugandan authorities have released no death toll from the offensive to indicate the scale of its impact.
LRA based bombed
MONUC said it transported around 100 Congolese soldiers to Faradje on Friday in an effort to boost security and protect civilians. Uganda was also sending more forces to the area.
On Monday, an LRA spokesman said Kony and his top commanders had survived bombing raids on their bases. He said Kony was calling for peace talks to be relaunched with a new mediator.
The rebels said on Friday they shot down a Ugandan army helicopter, a charge both Ugandan and U.N. officials denied.
Magezi said Ugandan forces believed Kony's fighters were now moving towards the Central African Republic, which borders Congo and Sudan and where the LRA has conducted raids in the past.
"This operation is a success. We are occupying his (Kony's) bases and sitting on his food supplies," Magezi said. "We'll hunt him down even if he goes to CAR. We have been in contact with the government there and they are ready to cooperate."
A spokesman for Central African Republic's President Francois Bozize would not confirm the poor and sparsely populated country had agreed to help the anti-LRA drive.
Kony and two of his deputies have been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes allegedly committed during a two-decade bush war that has killed thousands of people and displaced about two million more.
Reuters Last Mod: 27 Aralık 2008, 16:17