- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

KAMPALA, UGANDA (AP) - Uganda began withdrawing troops hunting brutal Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in neighboring Congo after the deadline for them to leave expired Sunday, an army spokesman said .

The Ugandan military has been hunting the rebels in Congo since December in a joint operation with forces from Congo and southern Sudan. The rebels frequently cross over the heavily forested borders between the three countries to kill and maim civilians.

Ugandan military spokesman Felix Kulaigye said the Congolese army will continue the hunt. He said the operation had been a success, with around 100 rebels killed and more than 200 abductees rescued. The rebels are notorious for mutilating and murdering civilians and kidnapping children to use as fighters and sex slaves.

The joint operation was launched after rebel leader Joseph Kony failed to turn up to sign a peace agreement last year. Kony is still at large, as are many of his commanders, although the rebels have splintered into several smaller groups.

The rebels have been fighting the Ugandan government for over 20 years, accusing it of discriminating against the country’s northern tribes.

Humanitarian groups and human rights activists say the rebels have massacred hundreds of civilians during the joint operation and criticized military leaders for not making better plans to protect villagers.

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