- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Heavily armed rebels attacked a refugee camp in northern Uganda and torched huts, killing 192 persons and wounding dozens, a local legislator said yesterday.

The attack Saturday evening 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,” Mr. Anjiro said by telephone from Lira, a town 16 miles south of the camp. “The scene is terrible.”

Jane Aceng, head of a hospital in the town, said 56 persons 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, said army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza.

The Lord’s Resistance Army is led by Joseph Kony, who says he has spiritual powers. Estimates of the group’s size range from hundreds to a few thousand.

After the September 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.

Mr. 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,” Mr. Anjiro said.

An army spokesman in the region, 2nd Lt. Chris Magezi, said government forces were pursuing the rebels.

Lt. Magezi, also speaking from Lira, could not confirm the death toll, but said the attack appeared to have been one of the worst rebel assaults in recent years. In 1995, the rebels rounded up more than 300 villagers in Gulu district and killed them, he said.

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