Ugandan army says 19 LRA rebels killed in clashes

GULU, Uganda (Reuters) – Ugandan troops killed 19 rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in a string of attacks over the last three days, a spokesman for the east African country’s army said on Sunday.

The attacks took place in remote parts of Gulu and Pader districts, where the elusive LRA has waged an 18-year-old war against the government of President Yoweri Museveni.

Both sides embarked on the most significant peace talks for a decade in December and the government has announced a limited ceasefire zone to facilitate more talks — but outside the zone fighting has continued.

“Eight rebels were killed on February 10 in the hills of Kilak sub-county, Gulu district,” said Lieutenant Ronald Kakarungu, acting army spokesman for northern Uganda.

“Then in the last two days we have killed 11 others, nine in Pader district and another two in Gulu,” he said.

Gulu and Pader are about 300 km (220 miles) north of the capital, Kampala.

Due to insecurity in the areas, it was not possible to verify the report independently. Uganda’s army often says it has killed LRA rebels, but seldom mentions army casualties.

Despite the clashes, the new government ceasefire has raised fresh hopes for peace in the troubled region, where some 1.6 million people have been uprooted by the violence.

December’s talks stalled after the LRA called for more time to study a peace document, understood to include clauses on the complete cessation of hostilities and the provision of non-military humanitarian aid to the rebels.

But regular telephone contact between the top government mediator and the rebels have continued and observers say the new, partial government truce has boosted the peace moves.

The cult-like LRA, which has never given a clear account of its aims, has spread fear through a campaign of massacres and the kidnapping of tens of thousands of children.

Nevertheless, many in the north say the group’s leader Joseph Kony and his commanders would be forgiven if they renounced violence.

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