(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

LRA rebels kill 12 in bus ambush in Pader district

Country Map - Uganda (Gulu, Kitgum and Pader Districts)
IRIN

Twelve people were killed in northern Uganda on Monday when rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) ambushed a vehicle and set it ablaze with the passengers still inside, the Ugandan army said.

"Today at around 10.00 a.m (0700 GMT) between Pader and Pajure, about seven rebels ambushed a minibus heading to Kitgum," the Ugandan army spokesman in the northern region, Capt Chris Magezi, told IRIN by phone.

"Twelve people were killed and five seriously injured. Some were killed inside the vehicle while others died of gunshot wounds," he added.

A local church official said the victims, mainly civilians, were set on fire inside the vehicle. "It was a grisly act because the people were burnt [alive] inside the vehicle," the official said from Gulu town, 380 km north of Kampala.

The ambush was the second in three days targeting civilian vehicles. On Friday, the rebels killed five people in an ambush in Pader, 350 km north of the capital, Kampala.

Magezi described the attacks as "cowardly". However, he added, the Ugandan army was also investigating whether its officers failed to carry out their duties thereby allowing the deadly ambushes to take place.

"If these ambushes are a result of our weaknesses, stern measures are going to be taken," Magezi said.

On 7 November, the European Union urged the Ugandan government to protect its citizens from LRA attacks. This came after relief agencies working in northern Uganda, including the UN, curtailed their operations on 27 October following attacks on aid workers by suspected LRA rebels.

The attacks, which occurred on 25 and 26 October, saw the rebels carry out three ambushes on humanitarian workers killing two people and injuring four.

On 2 November, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) suspended its operations in southern Sudan after suspected LRA fighters killed two of its de-miners - an Iraqi international team supervisor and his Sudanese colleague.

On 5 November, the rebels again killed another international NGO worker in an ambush on the Sudanese side of the border. Collin Lee, 67, an employee of International Aid Services (IAS), died of gunshot wounds, while his wife and driver were seriously wounded.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and about 1.5 million displaced in northern Uganda since the LRA started fighting nearly two decades ago.

LRA leader Joseph Kony, who operates from bases in southern Sudan, and his forces have been accused by human rights groups of massive abuses, including the abduction of at least 20,000 children who are used by LRA commanders as porters, fighters and sex slaves.

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