KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Darfur rebel group said on Thursday it was attacked by Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army guerrillas in Sudan’s west.
“A group of LRA attacked our forces in Dafak in South Darfur yesterday,” Haydar Galucuma Ateem, vice president of the Darfur rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), told Reuters from Qatar-based peace talks.
South Sudan, which fought decades of civil war against the north, accuses the northern government of arming the LRA to destabilise the semi-autonomous region ahead of a January 9, 2011 referendum which most believe will result in a vote for independence.
Known for their abduction of child soldiers and extreme brutality, the LRA sought refuge in neighbouring south Sudan during the civil war.
Kampala accused Sudan’s central government in Khartoum of providing support to the LRA, a charge Khartoum denies.
After a 2005 north-south peace deal, which did not include a separate conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, LRA rebels went on the run and south Sudan said some had moved towards Darfur to receive support from Khartoum there.
South Sudan’s government says it cut off Khartoum’s supply lines to the LRA after the 2005 accord so the Ugandan rebels moved north to Khartoum-controlled territory in Darfur to get resupplied.
Ateem said two small reconnaissance groups of about 20 young LRA rebels carrying light arms shot and killed one LJM soldier before retreating into dense forest in remote South Darfur.
“Their language was one of the ways we knew they were LRA,” he said, adding the Ugandan guerrillas in the past year had often crossed the remote and porous border between South Darfur and the Central African Republic.
“They probably have a relationship with the government of Sudan,” Ateem said. “Many of the young people in the area say they are arming the LRA — the LRA first entered South Darfur about a year ago.”
The International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrants for LRA commanders, whose tactics include mutilating their victims by cutting off their lips and ears.
Groups of LRA soldiers also frequently attack south Sudanese villages near the border with the lawless Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations and south Sudan government.