Ugandan massacre death toll at least 337 - UNICEF

Reuters/March 16, 2004

Gulu, Uganda -- Rebels killed at least 337 people last month in Uganda's worst massacre in years, a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official said on Tuesday.

"District officials in Lira's planning department are now pretty confident that 337 people were killed, including those killed in the camp and those abducted and later killed in surrounding areas," said Rebecca Symington, UNICEF's protection officer for northern Uganda.

The exact number killed by Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in the February 21 raid has provoked controversy, local officials saying more than 230 people were shot or burned to death at the camp for displaced people, compared with a government figure of 84.

Investigations into the attack at Barlonyo camp near the northern town of Lira had pointed to an even higher death toll, UNICEF officials said.

Local leaders had identified 237 of the dead. Most were civilians living in the camp and the rest were local militiamen, Symington said.

During the night attack, LRA rebels overpowered militiamen guarding the camp of 4,000 people before shooting, hacking and burning people alive in their huts.

Led by self-proclaimed mystic Joseph Kony, LRA rebels have abducted and brainwashed hundreds of children and forced them to fight for them, spreading fear throughout northern Uganda, paralysing economic activity and defying attempts to crush them.

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