January 08, 2009 report via MONUC - Ugandan rebels kill 40 in south Sudan: top official
JUBA, Sudan, Jan 8, 2009 (AFP) - Ugandan rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) have killed at least 40 people in south Sudan since Christmas, an official said on Wednesday.
The rebels attacked villagers, looted houses and burnt huts in the Western Equatoria region of Sudan, as fighters fled attacks on their jungle bases across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"They have killed around 40, mostly in the Mundri and Maridi districts," said Colonel Joseph Ngere Paciko, deputy state governor for Western Equatoria.
"One or two they may have shot, but mostly they have hacked people with machetes, or just clubbed them to death."
Troops from Congo, Uganda and south Sudan launched a joint operation in mid-December against the rebels in the northeast DR Congo -- an isolated region near the Ugandan and Sudanese borders.
"Where I am now, they have killed three more with machetes," Paciko said, speaking by satellite telephone from the field.
"Some huts have been burnt, but mostly they are looting -- taking food and medicines."
Tens of thousands of people have also been killed and nearly two million displaced in Uganda in two decades of fighting between the LRA and Ugandan government forces.
Blamed for widespread human rights violations over the years, the LRA is accused of killing hundreds of civilians in northeastern DR Congo -- at least 400, according to Catholic aid group Caritas -- during the Christmas period.
"They are desperate because they are running away from their bases that have been attacked," Paciko added. "But they are also angry with the people of south Sudan, because they think it is these people who have betrayed them."
He was not able to give precise figures on the numbers of fighters in the area, but said several groups are active.
"They are moving in small groups of 15 to 20 fighters -- classic guerilla tactics that are causing havoc to the region," he added.
The joint offensive was launched after LRA leader Joseph Kony repeatedly refused to sign a peace agreement with Kampala aimed at ending one of Africa's longest conflicts.