Rebels abduct two priests

SAPA-AFP, Sep. 14, 2002

Kampala – Suspected rebels of the

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“They looted the mission and nearby settlements before abducting two priests along with several other people who were forced to carry their loot,” said the priest, who requested anonymity.

Italy’s ambassador in Uganda Mauricio Teucci gave the names of the hostages as Ponsiano Velluto, 71, and Alex Pizzi, 63. Father Velluto hails from Fogia in southern Italy while Father Pizzi comes from Crema in the north.

Army spokesperson Major Shaban Bantariza confirmed the incident, adding that a group of military officers had been flown to the area to investigate the abduction.

“The deputy commander of the army division of the area has flown to the mission and we hope to get details later… The Italian priests in the area have been trying to talk peace with LRA,” said Bantariza.

Bantariza said the rebels had raided a military camp before attacking the mission and that soldiers in the camp killed two of the rebel fighters in the ensuing fighting.

President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday ordered the arrest of the camp’s commander for delaying an appeal for reinforcements, according to Bantariza.

Soldiers in the camp were forced to make a “tactical withdrawal” because they were greatly outnumbered by the rebels, the spokesperson said, adding that the army had recovered a machine gun and a grenade from the dead rebels.

He said the army detachment that was attacked by the rebels had regrouped and was pursuing them.

Field radios were among items seized by the rebels at the mission, Bantariza said.

Religious leaders in northern Uganda have met the rebels several times since the beginning of July in a bid to broker a peace deal between the insurgents and the government.

The LRA was set up in 1988 by former Roman Catholic catechist Joseph Kony and its declared aim then was to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni’s government, which it accused of marginalising northern Uganda, and replace it with a regime based on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

Northern Ugandan politicians and church leaders who have met representatives of the group in recent months said those they met did not appear religious and that LRA’s political objectives remained obscure.

The group is best known for its brutality against civilians and the abduction children and young people and making them fighters or sex slaves.

The LRA had on August 24 agreed to most of a set of ceasefire conditions set by President Museveni and announced a unilateral truce, but the army continued operations against the group, killing some of its members.

The rebels themselves carried on with their violent campaign indicating that they have abandoned their ceasefire, dimming hopes for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. – Sapa-AFP


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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday September 14, 2002.
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