UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Warlord Joseph Kony and some of his Lord’s Resistance Army commanders are hiding in Sudanese-controlled areas of a disputed enclave in South Sudan bordering Central African Republic and Sudan, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council on the activities of Kony’s LRA, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Sudan’s government had indicated there were no elements of the group in the disputed Kafia Kingi enclave.
“However, credible sources suggest LRA leader Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders have recently returned to seek safe haven in Sudanese-controlled areas of the enclave,” Ban said.
Kony, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, waged a brutal guerrilla war against Ugandan government in the north of the country for nearly two decades, before fleeing with his fighters into the jungles of central Africa around 2005.
A 5,000-strong African Union Regional Task Force - supported by 100 U.S. Special Forces - has been hunting Kony and commanders, who are accused of abducting thousands of children for use as fighters in a rebel army that earned a reputation for chopping off limbs as a form of discipline.
“The LRA is currently believed to have split into several highly mobile groups operating with a significant degree of autonomy in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Ban reported.
“They are involved primarily in survival mode activities which entail attacking civilians, killing, looting and kidnapping. There have been no reports of recent premeditated mass killings or other grave human rights abuses,” he said.
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 65 LRA attacks were reported during the first quarter of 2014 in Central African Republic and Congo, during which 93 people were abducted and two people killed.
There were no LRA incidents in South Sudan in the past six months, according to the report.
It said senior LRA commanders are believed to be based in northeastern Central African Republic, where they are exploiting the instability to regroup. The virtually lawless country has been ravaged by sectarian violence after Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in March last year.
“It is also suspected that some ex-Seleka combatants as well as some community leaders may be in collusion with LRA and may be providing the group with information about RTF (regional task force) operations and supplies, including arms and ammunition,” Ban said.
Uganda’s military said in February a commander believed to be the deputy to Kony may have been killed last year in Central African Republic where the African Union force is hunting the insurgents.
The U.S. military said last month it is deploying four tilt-rotor transport planes to Uganda in response to African Union requests for airlift support in the hunt for Kony. The aircraft will be used to help African Union troops respond more quickly to tips on the whereabouts of Kony.
“Despite the continuing decline in LRA activity overall, the LRA still remains a serious threat, with its senior leadership intact and with the potential to destabilize the sub-region,” Ban said.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Steve Orlofsky