- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2008

KAMPALA, Uganda | The Ugandan army on Sunday accused Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church in northeastern Congo.

An aid official speaking to AFP on the condition of anonymity confirmed Friday’s massacre, saying the killings took place in a Catholic church in the Doruma area, about 25 miles from the Sudanese border.

“There are body parts everywhere - inside the church, the entrance and in the church compound,” the aid official said.

“We got information the rebels cut 45 people into pieces,” added army spokesman Capt. Chris Magezi.

“They were cut with pangas [machetes] and hit with clubs, but some luckily managed to escape. Our forces came to know about the killings while pursuing the LRA [Saturday] and the pursuit is on for the killers.”

Capt. Magezi said the victims, mostly women, children and the elderly, were mutilated in the style used by Hutu extremists during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Capt. Magezi later said 13 of the insurgents were shot dead by military forces.

“We came in contact with the group that killed the civilians in the church near Doruma. We put 13 of them out action and we recovered from them nine sub-machine guns,” he said. “We are pursuing the rest of the group.”

Forces from Uganda, Congo and south Sudan launched a joint operation against the Ugandan LRA rebels in northeastern Congo earlier this month.

The vice-governor of Orientale province, Joseph Bangakya Angaze, told AFP by telephone that “fighting has broken out around Doruma since Friday, between elements of the LRA and local groups” set up to defend their communities.

Capt. Magezi also had accused the rebels of killing 35 civilians in attacks Wednesday and Thursday in areas in south Sudan and northeastern Congo.

LRA spokesman David Nyekorach Matsanga denied the rebels were behind any of the killings.

The two sides have been engaged in peace talks led by the government of south Sudan for more than two years.

“Reports about the LRA killing innocent civilians is another propaganda campaign by the Uganda army,” Mr. Matsanga told AFP.

“I am not a military spokesman for the LRA, but I have it on good authority from the field commanders that the LRA is not in those areas where the killings are reported to have taken place.

“We need an independent verification to know who is responsible for these killings in Doruma because LRA has stated before we want peace not war because fighting won’t help,” he said.

LRA chief Joseph Kony has repeatedly refused to sign a peace deal with Kampala because of International Criminal Court arrest warrants against him and his lieutenants on war crime charges.

Mr. Kony’s rebels are accused of having raped and mutilated civilians, forcibly enlisting child soldiers and of massacring thousands during two decades of conflict.

Mr. Kony, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a regional rebellion among northern Uganda’s ethnic Acholi minority.

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