Kampala – The Ugandan army said on Saturday it killed 30 Lord’s Resistance Army rebels this week, including 15 believed to be behind one of the East African nation’s worst massacres in years.
The exact number of people killed in the February 21 raid by the LRA near Lira town has provoked controversy in Uganda, with local officials saying more than 230 people were shot or burned to death compared with a government figure of 84 dead.
“We have been hot on their heels since the attack on Balornyo,” army spokesperson Chris Magezi told Reuters by telephone from his base in Lira town.
“We killed 15 on Thursday from a group led by a commander Odhiambo responsible for (the massacre in) Balornyo and another 15 from a group led by a Raska Lukwiya.”
Odhiambo’s group was killed at Laminajiko about 30km north of Balornyo in the neighbouring Pader district.
Magezi said Odhiambo’s LRA group was also responsible for killing more than 50 people at the beginning of February at Abia camp also in Lira district.
The February 21 LRA attack on Balornyo camp was one of the worst in the group’s 17-year-old insurgency.
Rebels attacked a camp of 4 000 people with automatic weapons and hand grenades and then set fire to grass-thatched huts in which people were hiding, witnesses said.
Uganda has said it plans to exhume the bodies of victims and give them a proper funeral. The exhumation will also help establish an exact death toll.
The latest killings by LRA rebels, who forced hundreds of brainwashed children to fight for them, provoked outrage in northern Uganda at the government’s failure to protect civilians.
Led by self-proclaimed mystic Joseph Kony, the LRA has spread fear throughout northern Uganda, paralysing economic activity in the area and defying repeated attempts by the army to crush the revolt.
The movement has never issued a clear statement of its demands, but says it is fighting for the rights of the northern Acholi people, who have long felt neglected by the government in the capital Kampala. Acholi also form the main victims of its attacks, which typically target civilians.
Officials have said the bodies would be exhumed from hastily dug graves at the site of the attack on the Balornyo camp, one of many camps set up to house more than a million people uprooted by attacks by rebels in the north.
It was still unclear when the burial would take place.