KAMPALA, May 19 (Reuters) – Ugandan troops rescued an Anglican bishop hours after he was kidnapped from his home in the early hours of Wednesday by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, an army spokesman said.
Officials said Benjamin Ojwang’s abduction appeared to be the first of a bishop by the cult-like LRA, which is notorious for targeting civilians, slicing off its victims lips and ears, and snatching tens of thousands of children to be fighters, porters and sex slaves.
“He’s a man of God, so of course we are very happy he is safe,” Lieutenant Paddy Ankunda, the army spokesman for northern Uganda, told Reuters by telephone.
“Our patrol caught up with them and rescued the bishop, rescued 11 other people who were abducted with him, and killed three rebels.”
Ojwang is bishop of Kitgum in northern Uganda, a part of the country ravaged by the LRA’s 18-year-old war against President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
Some 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes by the conflict and live in about 60 squalid camps.
The rebels looted Ojwang’s home in Kitgum town, 460 km (286 miles) north of the capital Kampala and forced the bishop and other captives to march into the bush, until an army patrol rescued them unharmed, Ankunda said.
Ojwang is a member of the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative, a multi-faith group that aims to end the fighting between the government and the LRA.
The group has asked Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, to serve as one of three top negotiators in talks between the two sides.
Most Ugandans say the LRA, led by self-proclaimed prophet and mystic Joseph Kony, appears to have no clear objectives beyond overthrowing Museveni’s government.
The government maintains it is turning the tide against the rebels, but clashes and attacks continue.
At least 22 people were killed, many of them beaten to death, near the northern town of Gulu on Sunday when the LRA attacked a refugee camp. On Tuesday the army killed 54 rebels in neighbouring southern Sudan, where Khartoum has allowed the Ugandan army to operate against LRA bases since 2002.