Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004

Ugandan uprising kills 192

February 23, 2004


— Scores of rebels armed with assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a refugee camp in northern Uganda and torched huts, killing 192 people and wounding dozens more, a local legislator said Sunday.

Saturday evening's attack on Barloonyo camp in Lira district was one of the worst in recent years by the Lord's Resistance Army, a shadowy rebel group that has been fighting the Ugandan government for 17 years.

As the insurgents surrounded the camp from three sides, many people ran to their mud-and-grass huts instead of trying to escape, and were burned to death when the insurgents set fire to the homes, legislator Charles Anjiro said.

"It's a hopeless situation, we went there this morning with the Lira district police commander and physically counted 192 bodies," Anjiro told The Associated Press by telephone from Lira town, 16 miles south of the camp. "The scene is terrible."

Dr. Jane Aceng, head of Lira hospital, said 56 people were taken to the hospital with burns and shrapnel and gunshot wounds.

The camp was home to about 5,000 people displaced by the insurgency, which has forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes.

The camp was being guarded by members of a local defense force, who were outnumbered and outgunned, Army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza said, confirming the attack.

It was not possible to contact the Lord's Resistance Army, which is led by Joseph Kony, who claims to have spiritual powers. Estimates of the group's size range from hundreds to a few thousand.

After the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, President Bush put the group, which rarely makes contact with the outside world, on a list of organizations suspected of having links to terrorism.

Anjiro said the rebels were armed with "sophisticated guns ... and grenades" when they attacked the camp at about 5:30 p.m. from the north, south and east. The western side was used for their exit.

"They bombed the camp ... and overpowered the local defense forces and then started burning the huts," Anjiro said.

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