September 19, 2008 / 4:27 PM / 9 years ago

Uganda rebels accused of attacks in Sudan, Congo

(Adds denial from LRA official)

By Skye Wheeler

JUBA, Sudan, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Ugandan rebels attacked villages near the remote Congo-Sudan border this week, taking 40 schoolchildren hostage and killing at least three people, authorities in Congo and Sudan said on Friday.

South Sudan’s military said Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels attacked one of its units and killed a soldier and the son of a local chief on Thursday on the Congolese border.

But an LRA spokesman said there was no proof the movement launched the attack in Sudan and blamed the raids in Democratic Republic of Congo on other militias operating in the area.

Two years of peace talks in south Sudan between the LRA and the Ugandan government collapsed in April when elusive guerrilla leader Joseph Kony failed to sign a final peace deal.

Kony is wanted for war crimes by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo said LRA fighters had attacked three villages earlier this week near the Sudanese border, abducting 40 school children and others.

The Congolese army deployed hundreds of troops in the area this month to contain LRA fighters.

"According to the local authorities’ sources, three villages were looted by 40 LRA fighters. In Kiliwa village the local chief was killed," said Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, military spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo, MONUC.

"Local authorities said they (the LRA) abducted 40 schoolchildren, both boys and girls," he said.

Local officials reported more people were abducted from the other two villages, Nawenangwa and Nambia, including Nambia’s village chief, Dietrich said. The villages are 70-100 km (45-65 miles) north of the town of Dungu, near the Sudan border.



"CHILD SET ON FIRE"

On the other side of the frontier, authorities accused LRA guerrillas of attacking the Southern Sudanese army on Thursday in Sukure Payam district.

"They killed one soldier and wounded three others. They also set the child of one of the chiefs on fire," Major General Biar Ajang of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SLPA), told Reuters by telephone.

LRA spokesman David distanced his movement from the attacks.

"We haven’t proved it (the Sudan attack) was the LRA," Nyekorach-Matsanga told Reuters in Juba, southern Sudan.

"I have just spoken to General Joseph Kony forty minutes ago ... MONUC are just making up the story to make a fight that they have been planning for a long time...Joseph Kony said it was just other militias operating in that region, not LRA," David Nyekorach Matsanga said.

But the U.N. force said the attacks on the Congo villages, in which houses, schools, churches and health centres were looted and burned, were typical LRA attacks.

"This is classic behaviour of the LRA over the past few years," MONUC’s Dietrich said.

Northern Uganda’s two-decade civil war killed tens of thousands of people and displaced 2 million, destabilising parts of south Sudan and mineral-rich Congo.

In June, LRA fighters killed 23 people, including 14 SPLA soldiers, in a similar attack at Namanga on the Congo border. (Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Kinshasa; Writing by Jack Kimball and Alistair Thomson; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)




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