LRA launches new Congo attacks, may be "last gasp"

Wed Mar 7, 2012 7:23am GMT
 

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a cultish militia that has terrorised parts of Africa for decades, has launched a new spate of attacks in Democratic Republic of Congo this year after a lull in the second half of 2011, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.

One person has been killed, 17 abducted and 3,000 displaced in 20 attacks in Orientale province in northeastern Congo this year. The renewed violence was a cause of concern, UNHCR said.

"In the last year the area was more secure," said Celine Schmitt, a UNHCR spokeswoman by phone from Kinshasa.

But Mounoubai Madnodje, a spokesman for the UN's Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), said the LRA was on its last legs.

"We think right now it's the last gasp of a dying organisation that's still trying to make a statement," he said.

The LRA, which emerged in northern Uganda in the late 1990s, is believed to have killed, kidnapped and mutilated tens of thousands of people in a reign of terror across some of Africa's most remote and hostile terrain.

It appears to have lost much of its power under mounting pressure. Its leader Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court, the African Union has designated it as a terrorist group, and in October the United States sent 100 military personnel, mainly special forces, to train and advise the forces fighting against the LRA.

Madnodje said there are only about 200 LRA fighters left. They work in small groups of five or six, raiding villages to steal food and forcing one or two people to work as porters.   Continued...

Lord's Resistance Army fighters in a file photo. REUTERS/James Akena
 
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