LRA rebels attacks on the rise in central Africa: UNHCR

AFP/March 29, 2012

The UN refugee agency warned Friday that attacks by the renegade Lord's Resistance Army were on the rise and forcing thousands of people to flee.

Since March 6, 13 new attacks were recorded in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo, displacing 1,160 people in the region, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

The new violence brought the number of incidences in the country to 33 since January, with more than 4,000 people displaced.

The rebels also resumed their violence in the Central African Republic this year after a lull since April 2011, with 11 attacks reported in the south-east of the country, said the UNHCR.

Noting that South Sudan, which had previously been attacked by the LRA, was preparing to host African Union forces in a bid to crush the rebels, the UNHCR said such initiatives were welcomed.

The rag-tag LRA fighters first took arms in northern Uganda two decades ago but Ugandan forces drover them out in 2006.

They have sown terror across a vast region where the borders of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic meet.

The rebels are notorious for kidnapping boys to serve as child soldiers and girls to act as sex slaves.

Their leader Joseph Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court and countries in the region have set up a joint task force to hunt him down.

Activists have also launched an online campaign against him.

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