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Many missing, hurt after Ugandan rebel attack

AFP, France
Feb. 6, 2004 • Saturday February 7, 2004

Twenty people were still missing from a camp for displaced people in northern Uganda’s Lira district on Friday, two days after about 50 people there were killed during an attack by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, officials said.

“Over 20 people are still missing and we don’t know whether they were killed, taken captive or fled to other areas,” said Rosemary Ongom, a member of the Lira district council.

About 300 LRA fighters attacked Abia camp, near the northern town of Lira, on Wednesday evening, overpowering a detachment of government soldiers guarding it.

Fifty-two of more than 70 people injured in the attack were still undergoing medical treatment on Friday, doctors said.

“The numbers have overwhelmed us, but we are trying to cope and we are also waiting for the Health Ministry to bring in more supplies because what we had was just enough for the emergency,” Jane Achieng, the medical superintendent of Lira district hospital, said by telephone.

She said the 52 still in hospital had sustained burns and gunshot and machete wounds.

“All patients admitted here have stabilised though some are still in critical condition,” said Achieng. She said more than a dozen of those injured were children.

Government troops were on Friday still pursuing the LRA attackers, who are believed to be fleeing in small groups, army spokesperson Lieutenant Chris Magezi said.

Between 6000 and 10000 people are sheltered in Abia camp.

Magezi said the rebels’ main aim in mounting the attack was to make a public show of strength in the wake of government claims of significant victories against them.

He added that army reinforcements had been sent to the area in a bid to prevent similar attacks.

The 17-year-old rebel war in northern Uganda has displaced more than 1,2-million people, who currently live in congested and squalid conditions in camps set up by the army.

The army claims that by housing the displaced in these camps, it is able to guard them against rebel abductions conducted by the LRA to fill its fighting ranks.

The LRA has been fighting against President Yoweri Museveni’s government since 1988 to replace it with one based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

The group is infamous for its habit of abducting children and forcing them into combat and sexual slavery, among many other human rights abuses.

A top United Nations official last year said the conflict was the worst forgotten humanitarian crisis in the world.

The International Criminal Court announced in The Hague last week that its first inquiry would focus on the LRA.

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