Monday, May 3, 2010

U.N. Says Congo Rebels Killed Scores in Village

U.N. Says Congo Rebels Killed Scores in Village

Jehad Nga for The New York Times
A 23-year-old woman wore a bandage in a Niangara, Congo, hospital on Saturday, 17 days after a group of Lord’s Resistance Army rebels cut off her lips and right ear during an attack.

Published: May 1, 2010

KISANGANI, Congo — United Nations officials said Saturday that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel force killed up to 100 people in a previously unreported massacre in the remote northeastern corner of this country.

Times Topics: Lord's Resistance Army | CongoDetails are still emerging of exactly what happened. But according to John Holmes, the United Nation’s top humanitarian official, the L.R.A. struck a small village in February, two months after it killed more than 300 people from several villages in the surrounding area.

United Nations investigators have spoken with several witnesses and victims of the massacre in February, including two fishermen who said they saw dozens of bodies.

But the investigators have been unable to reach the exact location because of the difficulties of traveling in one of the most rugged and isolated corners of Africa.

Mr. Holmes said that while recent military operations may have weakened the L.R.A., “they are still capable of wreaking absolute havoc — and they still do.”

He said he learned about the February attack on Saturday, when he met with local authorities and victims in Niangara, an old trading post hidden away in the Congolese jungle that has recently been ringed by roving bands of L.R.A. marauders.

One of the people he met was a young woman whose lips had been sliced off last month. She was attacked by rebels while working in her field, she said Saturday, sitting in a hospital bed, her face a mask of gauze and tape.

“They told me I was talking too much,” she said.

The L.R.A. has been waging a brutal and bizarre rebellion for more than 20 years, starting in northern Uganda in the late 1980s.

Originally, it said it was guided by the Ten Commandments, but soon it was breaking every one, massacring and mutilating civilians and becoming notorious for kidnapping young children and turning them into 4-foot-tall killing machines.

The Ugandan Army eventually drove the L.R.A. out of Uganda but the rebels simply marched into neighboring northeastern Congo, where they set up bases in isolated areas.

Recently, the Ugandan military has killed dozens of fighters hiding out in Congo and the Central African Republic, though the L.R.A.’s leader, Joseph Kony, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity, is still on the loose.

In the December massacre, the L.R.A. killed more than 300 people in a brutal recruitment campaign near Niangara, in which a few dozen rebel fighters abducted hundreds of civilians, marching them in a human chain from village to village. Along the way, the fighters beat to death men, women and children they did not want to keep in their ranks.

“For anyone saying that the L.R.A. is finished, I would be careful not to count them out,” Mr. Holmes said. “They have an amazing capacity to regenerate themselves, especially by kidnapping children.”

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