KAMPALA, July 29 (Reuters) – Ugandan troops killed more than 100 Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in an attack in southern Sudan, but the leader of the shadowy cult-like group apparently escaped with his life, the army said on Thursday.
Ugandan officials said Sudanese authorities had approved Wednesday’s raid east of Juba on the suspected headquarters of self-proclaimed mystic and LRA leader Joseph Kony.
“Over 100 rebels were killed in yesterday’s attack. But Kony’s body has not been found,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Otema Awany, the army’s chief intelligence officer for northern Uganda.
“The problem is that our troops were trying to capture him alive. They fired at him, and he was running, but right now it is not clear whether any bullets struck him.”
Awany told Reuters Ugandan forces were hunting for the leader of northern Uganda’s 18-year-old insurgency, which has driven some 1.6 million people from their homes.
“If he survived, then he has lost everything,” he said.
Troops seized Kony’s personal walkie-talkie handset and radio transmitter from the battlefield following the clash, a Ugandan army spokesman said late on Wednesday.
They also captured 29 people, including four of Kony’s wives and several of his suspected children.
A pair of generals’ epaulettes was also found at the scene, the spokesman said, adding that Kony had recently promoted himself to general.
The raid took place a day before the International Criminal Court said it had opened an investigation into accusations of human rights abuses by the LRA.
Uganda accuses the group of brutally and routinely targeting civilians, mutilating its victims and kidnapping tens of thousands of children who are forced to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.
Most Ugandans say the group has no clear objectives beyond overthrowing the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
The Ugandan army said Wednesday’s raid near Biriniang village was launched with the support of the Sudanese government, but without its troops’ direct involvement.
Uganda had protested to Khartoum that Kony was hiding near Sudanese government forces north of the “Red Line” setting the limits of where Ugandan troops are allowed to operate against the LRA under a 2002 accord.