Home | News    Saturday 20 March 2004

Ugandan army says kills, pursues rebels into Sudan

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KAMPALA, March 20 (Reuters) - The Ugandan army said on Saturday it had killed 18 rebels and captured three others in northern Uganda, forcing a large group of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels to escape into Sudan.

"In the past week hundreds have been forced back into Sudan after we intensified operations in Kitgum," said Chris Magezi, the army spokesman in the northern district of Kitgum.

Uganda and Sudan had for years exchanged accusations of backing each other’s rebels, until they struck a deal in 2002 to allow Ugandan forces to pursue the LRA into southern Sudan.

The deal was again extended this month, and for the first time Sudan agreed to allow Uganda to use warplane attacks inside Sudan to flash out the rebels.

Uganda said it would take advantage of the deal to start sending helicopters inside Sudan to attack rebel bases.

"It is very significant that they have now allowed us to bring our air forces into Sudan to help us fight these terrorists. This provision is absolutely necessary," Ministry of Defence spokesman Shaban Bantariza told Reuters.

He said Khartoum had restricted the type of Ugandan war planes that could be sent inside Sudan for security reasons.

"But we cannot just use any air power, only combat helicopters, not jets, because these only operate in a limited distance and therefore don’t pose a threat (to Sudan)," he said.

The LRA rebels shot, hacked and burnt to death more than 300 civilians in northern Uganda in one of their worst mass killings in a 17-year-old insurgency last month, according to a death toll given by aid workers.

The LRA, led by altar boy turned mystic Joseph Kony, are notorious for abducting children for use as sex slaves and child soldiers and maiming or massacring civilians. The conflict has forced 1.4 million people to flee their homes in northern Uganda.

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