Red Cross halts northern Uganda aid after attack

KAMPALA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The Ugandan branch of the Red Cross suspended relief work in the north of the country after rebels wounded six volunteers in an ambush, the aid agency said on Tuesday.
Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels attacked two Red Cross cars in northern Uganda on Saturday, firing rocket propelled grenades and fleeing with communications equipment and personal belongings.

The Ugandan Red Cross Society (URCS) said the suspension of aid would affect thousands of people who have been forced to flee by the fighting in Gulu, Pader and Kitgum districts, and who receive cooking utensils, tents and other items from the agency.

The injured Red Cross workers, all employees of the URCS, an affiliate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, were admitted in critical condition at a nearby hospital.

"Our cars are clearly marked, the rebels even stopped the cars and talked to the team leader before opening fire, leaving six seriously injured and proceeding to loot the two vehicles," URCS chairman Tom Buruku told Reuters.

Ugandan army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said the army had offered to provide protection for the agency's vehicles in the north but the offer had been rejected.

"The LRA are terrorists they do not care whether you are a neutral organisation or not...they probably thought they could get medicine and other supplies," he said.

The LRA has waged a 17-year insurgency in northern Uganda, where its members have abducted thousands of children for use as soldiers or sex slaves.

Fighting has intensified in the past few months, pushing the number of people forced to flee to about 800,000 from around 500,000 last year, according to estimates from U.N. aid workers.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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