KAMPALA, Aug 17 (Reuters) – Ugandan troops killed nine Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels after a devastating raid on the group’s headquarters in southern Sudan scattered its main force, the army said on Tuesday.
Army chiefs said some LRA had crossed back into northern Uganda, where the rebels have waged an 18-year-old war, after an air and ground assault on their camp on July 28 that killed at least 120 people.
Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed mystic who leads the cult-like group, slipped away and is being hunted, they said.
“Our troops caught up with one group of rebels under (LRA commander) Odhiambo in Pader district yesterday and killed seven of them,” army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said.
“We also killed two others in the Kit Valley on Monday.”
The LRA insurgency has devastated northern Uganda, driving some 1.6 million people from their homes into refugee camps.
The rebels are notorious for their brutality, routinely targeting civilians, slicing off the lips and ears of their victims and kidnapping tens of thousands of children to serve them as fighters, porters and sex slaves.
Bantariza said a constant flow of LRA fighters had surrendered since last month’s attack on Kony’s camp, including 32 rebels who gave themselves up to troops on Sunday in northern Uganda’s troubled Pader district.
“Every day we have been getting between 10 and 15 surrendering to us,” Bantariza said. “This proves that our military policy is paying off.”
Some Ugandan religious leaders have criticised the government’s military approach and its attempts to have Kony prosecuted for crimes against humanity, saying instead that an amnesty offer has been bearing fruit.
But some Ugandan commentators say last month’s raid was a big step towards ending the war, and President Yoweri Museveni was quoted on Sunday as saying he would not negotiate with Kony.
“Kony is an ordinary criminal, not a political problem,” Museveni told Uganda’s independent Monitor newspaper.
“He does not listen to anyone. Asking him to enter political dialogue is like asking any other common criminals, like the robbers we recently defeated here in Kampala, to come to a political negotiating table.”