Uganda rebels retreat to Sudan to regroup

KAMPALA, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Some rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have fled to Sudan under pressure from the Ugandan army, whose troops advanced on their positions after the end of heavy rains, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.

Spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said the end of the rainy season made it easier for government troops to make inroads, having previously been held back in the muddy terrain.

The rebels, led by self-proclaimed mystic and prophet Joseph Kony, have waged war against the Uganda government for 17 years, and are feared for maiming civilians and abducting children for use as sex slaves and child soldiers.

“In the last few weeks the rebels have been trying to return to Sudan as our pressure on them has increased,” Bantariza told Reuters. “It’s now the dry season and we can move our vehicles around much quicker with no mud to slow us down.”

The rebels have in the past fled to Sudan to take cover from army advances.

In 2002, following an agreement with Sudan, Ugandan troops entered Sudan and flushed the rebels from their bases.

In October last year, they renewed their agreement to cooperate in driving out the rebels from southern Sudan bases.

But Bantariza said Uganda was worried they still had arms caches at some of the camps that had been abandoned, but which had not been occupied by Sudan.

Since the beginning of the year the army has said it has scored successes against the rebels, who split into small groups to evade a government offensive backed by artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships.

Bantariza said there were now only about 500 LRA rebels, down from 3,000 at the same time last year. Many had been killed, captured or had surrendered, he said.

The army spokesman in northern Uganda, Lieutenant Charles Magezi, said since the beginning of the year the army had killed 82 rebels, captured 40, rescued 147 people they had abducted and seized guns and ammunition.

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