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Army claims to have killed senior rebel commander

The Ugandan army claimed on Friday that it had killed a senior commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who was a member of the rebel team that met government representatives last December in a bid to start peace talks.

"We killed Brigadier Samuel Okullu, who has been chief of operations and training in the LRA," Kicoco Tabaro, a Ugandan army spokesman, told IRIN by telephone from the northern town of Gulu.

Tabaro said that Okullu, nicknamed Acel Calo Apar, was gunned down on 18 May at Kilak, about 40 km northwest of Gulu town, when government troops stumbled upon his hideout and clashed with his group of LRA fighters.

At this point, the extent to which Okullu’s death will affect relations between the LRA and the government remains to be seen. A source within the mediation team said that it will have "a negative impact" on what little progress has been made towards bringing peace to the region. "He was part of the rebel team," he said, "but we do not know how [much] this will impact on the dialogue and confidence-building process we have embarked on,"

Since 1988, northern Uganda has been ravaged by warfare pitting the Uganda government against rebels of the LRA, a brutal insurgency that frequently targets civilians for attacks. The conflict has displaced more than 1.4 million people.

The shadowy group began fighting ostensibly to replace the government of President Yoweri Museveni with an administration based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, but not much else is known about the insurgency, as it rarely makes public statements.

The group has been widely accused of abducting thousands of young boys and girls for recruitment into its ranks or to be turned into "wives" for LRA commanders. LRA fighters have often carried out attacks in several eastern districts as well.

In November 2004, the Ugandan government started negotiations with the LRA, mediated by former Minister for Northern Pacification Betty Bigombe. The talks reached an impasse in February, however, when a unilateral government ceasefire ended and Sam Kolo, the chief rebel spokesman, surrendered.

Relief sources in northern Uganda have said that there has been an increase in LRA activities in the region in recent months. One source cited a number of attacks in the district of Lira. Five people were murdered, three of whom were killed at Aleptang, near Aloi displaced person's camp, about 30 km north of Lira town, last week.

He said the upsurge in violence would discourage internally displaced persons (IDPs) from returning to their villages to cultivate their fields.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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