Sudan + 1 more

Four IRC aid workers held by Ugandan rebels; thousands uprooted by Monday attack

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The Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, is holding four International Rescue Committee aid workers, all Ugandan citizens, who were abducted during an attack early Monday on the Achol-Pii Refugee Camp in northern Uganda.
"We are intensely concerned about the welfare of our staff members being held by the rebels, as well as 30 other IRC aid workers who remain unaccounted for since the raid," said Timothy Bishop, the IRC's director of aid programs in Uganda. "We are doing everything possible to locate them and secure their safe return."

In chaos following the attack, the IRC had reported that 37 staff members were unaccounted for, but the number was actually 42. Early today, eight of them called IRC's Kampala office to report that they are safe.

Bishop said the IRC is also working with the United Nations to assist many of the 24,000 Sudanese refugees who were driven from the camp and fled south toward the towns of Rackoko and Lira. IRC logistics and medical staff were dispatched to the towns to provide emergency assistance.

Dozens of rebel fighters raided Achol-Pii before dawn and destroyed much of the camp, including buildings, vehicles, and equipment belonging to the IRC and the United Nations. U.N. officials report that as many as 14 civilians were killed.

Bishop says security in the Achol-Pii area remains tenuous and that conditions are far too dangerous for the return of refugees and aid workers at this time. The United Nations discussed plans today to relocate the refugees to a new and safer site.

The IRC has been overseeing humanitarian programs at Achol-Pii for more than two years, distributing food and providing health, education, and agricultural services at the camp.

On Monday, the IRC's president George Rupp described the attack on innocent civilians and aid workers as an outrage. "The International Rescue Committee strongly urges the government of Uganda to act decisively to restore the security that has for so long eluded the people of northern Uganda and the refugees who have sought shelter there," he said.

Additional information

Media relations:

Edward Bligh (New York, HQ) (212) 551-3114
ebligh@theIRC.org

Melissa Winkler (New York, HQ) (212) 551-0972
melissa@theirc.org

Program activities:

David Sullivan (New York, HQ) (212) 551 3058
davids@theirc.org