Ugandan government claims 422 LRA rebels killed since September

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Kampala (dpa) - The Ugandan defence ministry said Thursday 422 Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels were killed in fighting with government forces in the northern region since September and 2,227 children and young people abducted by the LRA have been rescued.
Ugandan Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi told parliament Thursday that 422 guerillas were killed in the five-month period from September 2002 to February 19 this year.

The Ugandan government and the LRA have been engaged in a civil war for over 16 years that has displaced nearly a million people. The LRA is said to abduct young people and school children to train them as soldiers and force them to fight.

"The group has thrived on the abductions of young boys for manpower and of young girls for use as sex slaves for commanders. The group has always carried out massive abductions and massive killings of civilians," Mbabazi said in his address.

The minister said 138 LRA fighters were captured, 93 defected and an assortment of arms including 300 guns, 229 bombs and grenades and boxes of landmines and ammunition were recovered.

He made no mention of government casualties in his 12-page statement.

Mbabazi also said some 10,696 guns were recovered from the pastoralist Karamojong tribe in the north east of the country since the government began a disarmament exercise in late 2001.

The Karamojong, a warrior-like grouping of sub-tribes, had been using guns to steal cattle and were involved in a bloody conflict which has killed hundreds of people in the last few years.

The government estimated that tribal warriors held at least 40,000 guns before the disarmament began, first on a voluntary basis from December 2001 which became obligatory from February 2002. dpa hw ao

AP-NY-02-27-03 1041EST

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