Nairobi — Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has attacked a Sudanese refugee camp, for the second time this year, killing five government soldiers and burning about 65 huts.
According to media reports from Uganda, about 50 LRA fighters on 3 October attacked the Maaji refugee settlement in the northern Adjumani District. At least five soldiers and eight rebels were killed in the attack, Uganda's independent Monitor daily reported. A senior army officer had been arrested for having been drunk at the time of the attack, the paper reported.
Bushra Malik, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Kampala, told IRIN that the agency was still carrying out assessments in the field to gauge the impact of the attack, and would soon release a report on the situation in the camp.
Maaji is part of a broader refugee settlement programme in the Adjumani and Moyo districts, which house a combined total of 81,000 Sudanese refugees.
In July, the LRA attacked Maaji camp, killing five refugees and a government soldier, and burning 127 huts and classrooms before looting the dispensary.
The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, wants to replace President Yoweri Museveni's government with one based on the Biblical Ten Commandments. Since June this year it has stepped up attacks in northern Uganda. The renewed attacks, which have been characterised by killing of civilians, abductions, burning and looting of property, followed the signing in March of an agreement according to which the Sudanese government permitted the Ugandan army to pursue the LRA in Sudanese territory.
Museveni, who has for the last few weeks been camping in the northern town of Gulu, last week said the army would step up its campaign to ensure the group is wiped out by February 2003.
On Thursday, the army ordered all displaced people (IDPs) in northern Uganda to return to government-protected camps within 48 hours, for their own security from rebels, and also to avoid being caught up in an anticipated military offensive against the LRA. Most IDPs have since obeyed the army's orders and returned to the camps or areas surrounding the camps, according to Walter Ochora, the chairman of the local government council in Gulu.
According to Ochora, the order only affected "a few" IDPs who had returned to abandoned, isolated homesteads that were also being used by LRA as hide-outs. Most of the IDPs, however, had remained within protected camps or adjacent areas, he told IRIN.