LRA rebels kill and displace thousands in central Africa: UN

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The rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army have killed at least 2,000 people and forced 400,000 to flee in three countries since December 2008, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported Friday.

"Since December 2008, the LRA has murdered 2,000 people, abducted more than 2,600 and displaced over 400,000. An estimated 268,000 remain displaced in Orientale province in northeastern DRC, over 120,000 in Western Equatoria in southern Sudan and 30,000 in the southeast of the Central African Republic. There are also more than 24,000 civilians who were forced into exile," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in a statement.

The UNHCR communique documented a mounting "campaign of terror against civilians" in the DR Congo, South Sudan and the CAR, where a raid on Sunday against the northern town of Birao "is reported to have resulted in abductions of young girls, looting and shops being set afire."

The LRA emerged in 1998 in northern Uganda as a rebel movement dedicated to overthrowing the east African country's government and establishing a regime to uphold the Biblical Ten Commandments, but it was largely put down in its own country.

However, today it is infamous for regional atrocities against civilians, including massacres, and its leaders are wanted for war crimes. Uganda launched a joint raid with DR Congo troops against it in December 2008, but failed to crush it or capture its chief, Joseph Kony.

"So far this year, the Ugandan rebel group has carried out more than 240 deadly attacks. At least 344 people have been killed. In most cases, these attacks are on vulnerable, isolated communities, with indiscriminate killings, abductions, rape, mutilation, looting and destruction of property," Edwards said.

"Insecurity and poor infrastructure hinder assessment of needs and delivery of aid to affected communities, many of whose members are too traumatised and too scared to return to their farms to cultivate their land. This means they will continue to depend on outside help for the foreseeable future," he added.

"There is no respite," a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, told AFP.

© 2010 AFP

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