Rebels abduct more than 180 people, official says

Friday, April 25, 2003

KAMPALA, Uganda -- Rebels waging a 16-year insurgency attacked two villages and abducted more than 180 people in northern Uganda, a government official said Thursday.

Many of those seized early Wednesday were young people and women, said Charles Engwau Egou, a district commissioner for the area.

Over the past decade, the rebel Lord's Resistance Army has abducted an estimated 15,000 children in northern Uganda to use as fighters or sex slaves, according to international human rights groups.

The rebel group is led by Joseph Kony, who claims to have spiritual powers.

Rebels attacked the two villages in Lira district, about 224 miles north of Kampala, while most people were sleeping, Egou said.

"They forced the people to open their houses and were interested in young people and women whom they forced to carry some of their looted property," he said.

Margaret Ateng Otim, a legislator for Lira, said the army should deploy more troops in the district to protect civilians.

"Such a huge number of people would not have been abducted if there were (more) soldiers on the ground," she said.

The insurgents are leftovers of a northern rebellion that began after President Yoweri Museveni, a southerner, seized power in 1986.

Museveni has deployed thousands of troops in war-ravaged northern Uganda in a bid to crush the rebels or force them to the negotiating table.

Most of the soldiers are deployed in the districts of Kitgum, Gulu and Pader -- the areas worst affected by the rebellion.

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