Uganda says to keep troops in Central African Republic

KAMPALA Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:04am EDT

Ugandan soldiers, who are tracking down Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fugitive leaders, load supplies off a military helicopter in a forest bordering Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, near river Chinko April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Ugandan soldiers, who are tracking down Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fugitive leaders, load supplies off a military helicopter in a forest bordering Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, near river Chinko April 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda plans to keep its African Union-mandated troops hunting for Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighters in Central African Republic, it said on Tuesday, even after rebels seized power and threatened to expel all foreign forces.

A coalition of rebels called Seleka took power on Sunday, sweeping into the capital Bangui in a lightning offensive in which they fought their way from the far north to the presidential palace in four days.

Uganda has more than 3,000 troops that form the backbone of the AU force hunting Joseph Kony's LRA rebels roaming jungles that straddle the borders of Central African Republic, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"There have been past threats from these (Seleka) rebels that all foreign troops must pull out," said Ugandan military spokesman Paddy Ankunda.

"But we've got orders from the commander-in-chief to continue with our operations there and be on the highest form of alert so that should anyone attempt to attack our troops we defend ourselves."

The 5,000-strong AU force is backed by 100 U.S. special forces helping with intelligence and logistical support.

Wanted by the International Criminal Court, LRA leader Kony fought the Ugandan government for nearly two decades before being ejected from Uganda around 2005.

The court accuses him of abducting thousands of children and forcing them to fight in a rebel army that earned a reputation for chopping off limbs as a form of discipline.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Robin Pomeroy)

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