Tuesday, 20 January 2009


KAMPALA, UgandaThe Ugandan army accused the country's rebels of torching a Catholic church crowded with worshippers in eastern Congo, killing some of them.
Army spokesman Capt. Ronald Kakurungo said Ugandan troops in neighboring Congo reported the Lord's Resistance Army rebels set fire to a church Saturday night in the village of Tora. The Ugandan soldiers are part of a multinational force set up last December to stop the brutal rebel group.
Kakurungo said it was unclear how many people had been killed. The U.N.-run Radio Okapi, which broadcasts in eastern Congo, also reported the attack on the church and further attacks on civilian homes in the nearby village of Libombi.
Come Mbolingaba, the head of Catholic organization Caritas Congo, said employees had spoken to villagers who had confirmed there had been an attack but had no information on the number of casualties.
"They burned people who were praying in a church," he said.
U.N. officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Rebel spokesman David Matsanga disputed the claim, saying the rebels were not in the area and have not committed any atrocities.
The villages are 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the town of Dungu, where the multinational force is based.
Human Rights Watch said last week that the rebels have killed at least 620 people in the Congo in past month. The New-York based rights group collected testimonies in which survivors told how rebels attacked their homes, raped women and murdered men with bats and axes.
The rebels, who have been fighting for two decades, also have a history of abducting children to serve as sex slaves and fighters.
Uganda's army, backed by Congolese and Sudanese soldiers, launched an operation Dec. 14 aimed at routing the rebels from Congo, attacking the insurgents' headquarters in Garamba National Park. That broke the rebels into several groups, which have been attacking villages in their path as they fled.
Hunting the rebels is further complicated by Congo's own civil war. There are 18,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Congo mandated to protect civilians, but the troops are mostly posted further south around cities like Goma where separate fighting with Congo rebels has taken place.