KAMPALA, Nov. 18 — Rebels hacked at least 17 people to death in northern Uganda, a senior government official said on Tuesday, as residents reported the deaths of up to 53 villagers in the same district.
Egou Engwau, district commissioner of Lira, said rebels struck Ngetta and Okodi late on Monday and early Tuesday.
He told Reuters he had sent security officers to verify reports of other killings around Lira town some 300 km (190 miles) north of the capital, Kampala.
Earlier, a Catholic priest living in Lira said residents he had contacted counted 53 dead after rebels went on a rampage across villages in the Lira district.
He said rebels had hacked to death 14 people in Akangi, 16 people in Ongura, 10 people in Iwal and 13 in Ngetta.
”The rate of killing is incredible” the priest told Reuters.
Aid worker Els de Temmerman, who runs a facility aimed at rehabilitating children who have left the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), said Lira town was full of people fleeing the attacked villages.
”I went to the hospital this morning and saw dozens and dozens of people with chopped limbs and heads split open. It was disgusting. I had to vomit, I’ve seen a few bad things in my life,” she said. ”We are all very afraid tonight about what could happen.”
In another attack on Monday, army spokesman Lieutenant Charles Magezi said rebels wielding wooden clubs hit Adek’okwok village, bludgeoning 10 people people to death. He said two others died of wounds sustained in the same attack.
”The rebels killed 10 people by smashing their heads. No shots were fired,” Magezi told Reuters by telephone from Lira.
The latest violence comes less than two weeks after LRA rebel fighters hacked and burned to death up to 60 civilians in the same district.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday military pressure was the only way to end the country’s 17 year-old insurgency.
The LRA, led by self-proclaimed mystic and prophet Joseph Kony, has waged war against the Uganda government since 1986. The rebels are notorious for slicing off the limbs and lips of their victims and for snatching thousands of children for use as sex slaves and frontline fighters.
The government deployed 14,000 troops backed by helicopter gunships and tanks against the rebels last year, but LRA attacks have intensified and pushed further south towards Kampala.
(Additional reporting by William Maclean)