Uganda

Army says rebels weakened, 146 commanders killed since 2002

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Kampala (dpa) - The Ugandan army said Friday that the rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) command structure has been weakened and 146 of their commanders killed in fighting in northern Uganda since 2002.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Shaban Bantariza said at a news conference in Kampala that since the start of so-called "Operation Iron Fist'' in 2002, the rebels' numbers had been reduced from 8,000 to about 300.

"The war in northern Uganda against the rebels has been neutralized,'' Bantariza said.

"There are only about 10 commanders operating in Uganda with a few criminals around them who are highly concealed in bushy places and who occasionally spring up to ambush vehicles and also try to attack villagers,'' he said.

Since the beginning of June this year, 85 rebels were killed in action with the loss of only five soldiers, while 37 captives were rescued. Fifteen rebels were captured and 25 forced to surrender.

The spokesman said the rebels' capacity to abduct children into their ranks has also been significantly reduced and there have been no more fresh abductions.

The army rescued 4,632 abductees in 2003, while 3,031 captives were rescued in 2004

From January to June this year, only 475 captives were rescued, indicating that no fresh abductions were made, Bantariza said. dpa hw wjh

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