Rebels kill up to 200 people in northern Uganda

 

Ugandan rebels shot and burnt to death 192 people in a camp for displaced civilians in their bloodiest attack in years.

The killings by guerrillas of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a group based in lawless areas of neighbouring southern Sudan, cast fresh doubt on repeated recent assertions by the Ugandan government that its army is about to defeat the LRA.

The  government said the attack was revenge by the rebels after soldiers killed at least 95 rebels in the last three days.

The chief administration officer of northern Lira district, Daniel Odwedo, said authorities had counted 192 bodies following the attack on Ogur camp, making it one of the worst killings in the LRA's 17-year-old insurgency.

 Yesterday evening, rebels attacked the camp of 4,000 people with automatic weapons and hand grenades and then set fire to grass-thatched huts in which people were hiding, he  said.

A Catholic priest who works in the area earlier put the toll at 173. "I counted 121 bodies and the other 52 had already been buried in a mass grave by that time," Father Sebat Ayala said. "According to the local militia the rebels started the attack from a distance using artillery fire."

 "The militia, seeing they were overpowered, told the villagers to flee into the nearby bushes but the villagers fled into their grass-thatched huts which the rebels set on fire."

The Eritrean-born priest said the 36 militia tasked with guarding the camp of 4,800 inhabitants were no match for the 100 or so heavily-armed rebels.

Most camp dwellers managed to escape into the nearby bush and returned to the camp this morning.

LRA attacks on civilians have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their villages in northern Uganda for shelter in protected camps, which are the subject of periodic LRA raids.

In their bloodiest recent attack, rebels shot or hacked to death more than 50 people at a refugee camp in Abia district.    

The LRA is led by self-proclaimed mystic Joseph Kony and has defied repeated assaults by the Ugandan army. The rebels have abducted thousands of children for use as fighters or sex slaves. The LRA says it is fighting to improve the lot of Uganda's northern Acholi people but has not made a clear public statement detailing its demands.