New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Kony Rebels Kill 400 Congo Villagers

Kampala — THE LRA rebels killed over 400 people in Congo during the Christmas period, fresh details have emerged.

The simultaneous attacks on several villages in the Orientale province show a trail of bloody killings, looting, abductions and torching of villages, Caritas International, a Catholic charity operating in the province, said in a statement.

"Caritas is shocked by reports of a series of massacres in the DR Congo carried out by Ugandan rebels on Christmas Day and the days following."

During the Juba peace talks, Caritas was mandated to supply food to the LRA. Its director, Dungu-Doruma, said the rebels attacked a Christmas Day concert organised by the Catholic church in Faradje city.

He said the rebels returned the next morning to continue their killing spree, leaving about 150 people dead over the two days. In another attack in Duru, north of Dungu, 75 people were killed and a church burned down.

The killings continued along the Sudan border, where 48 were massacred in Bangadi and 213 in Gurba.

About 6,500 people took refuge at the Catholic church in Dungu-Doruma diocese. Caritas has provided relief items and appealed to the Congolese government to provide security to the population.

The LRA is facing a joint military offensive code-named Operation Lightning Thunder being undertaken by the UPDF, SPLA of South Sudan and the Congolese army (FARDC).

The offensive was launched on December 14 after Kony failed to sign the final peace agreement that was negotiated with the Government between July 2006 and April 2008 in Juba, South Sudan.

The UN office for coordination of humanitarian affairs had on Monday put the December 26-27 death toll at 189 people; 40 in Faradje, 89 in Doruma and 60 in Gurba.

On December 24, a total of 29 deaths had been reported in Bitima, Sekuru, Maridi, Tore and between Laforo and Mambe road.

The dead in Faradje included the chief doctor, two priests, one school inspector, a pharmacist, a head of the Federation des Entreprises du Congo and the deputy chief of the immigration office.

Twenty children were also abducted, while 120 houses were torched. The rebels looted several shops, houses and a hospital.

Most of Faradje's 30,000 residents fled to Tadu, 37km from Faradje, and to Kpodo, 11km from Faradje.

The report said the rebels had occupied the seven villages surrounding Doruma. They are Batande, Manzagala, Mabando, Bagbugu, Nakatilikpa, Nagengwa and Natulugbu, all in Haut Uele province.

The murders, according to survivors, have the harrowing hallmarks of the LRA's 20-year-long atrocities in northern Uganda.

The rebels claim to be fighting for a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

The UN peace keeping mission in the Congo, MONUC, has condemned the attacks.

"The LRA were visibly routed by the joint air strikes against their base and while fleeing preyed on the vulnerable populations," MONUC said in a statement.

The LRA commanders are wanted at The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UN Security Council on December 22, also condemned the attacks on civilians, referring to it as a permanent threat to security in the region.

MONUC airlifted Congolose soldiers to Faradje to prevent further attacks. The UPDF also transported more troops to the area.

The UN is also assisting the Congolese army in setting up defensive positions.

The vice-governor of Orientale province, Joseph Bangakya, said the local authorities want the Central Africal Republic in the joint mission.

The spokesperson of the joint operation, Capt. Chris Magezi, said the killings were not sparked off by the recent attack, arguing that even during the peace talks, the LRA killed civilians.

"We have a two-pronged approach to stop these killings. We guard civilian settlements, while another force pursues the rebels."

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