KAMPALA (Reuters) – Rebels from Uganda’s feared Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) abducted at least 12 people from a remote northern village, officials said on Monday.
The cult-like group — which is notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become fighters, porters and sex slaves — has stepped up its attacks on civilians this month.
Saturday night’s raid in Adjumani district, near the border with Sudan, hit an area that has suffered in the past at the hands of small rebel groups moving swiftly on foot.
“Thirteen people were abducted by the LRA on Saturday from Melijo village, which is about 20 km southeast of Adjumani town,” district chairman Nixon Owole told Reuters by telephone.
A Ugandan army spokesman said 12 people had been abducted of whom, seven were since rescued.
“We have a special forces team on the ground in Adjumani to rescue the others,” said Lieutenant Tabaro Kiconco.
The identity of the victims was not clear, and it was not immediately possible to contact local officials at the scene.
Seven people including a 2-year-old girl were shot and hacked to death by LRA rebels earlier this month in Adjumani.
The district hosts more than 60,000 refugees fleeing a separate war and LRA banditry in southern Sudan. Last year alone, more than 30,000 Sudanese refugees were uprooted by LRA attacks on their camps in the north.
Some 1.6 million northern Ugandans have been forced into squalid, makeshift refugee camps by nearly 19 years of fighting between the government and the LRA.
Talks to end the war — which aid workers call one of the world’s most neglected emergencies — were dealt a blow last month by the surrender of the rebels’ main negotiator, but tentative contacts have continued.
So have military operations aimed at hunting down top LRA commanders, including the group’s elusive leader Joseph Kony, who is believed to be hiding in mountainous southern Sudan.