Ugandan rebels, DRCongo army clash near Sudan border
KINSHASA (AFP) — Ugandan rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army have clashed with government forces in a national park in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said Saturday.
"About 50 LRA rebels attacked Magero, home of the chief station of the Garamba park wardens, Friday evening," Joseph Bangakya, deputy governor of the northeastern province of Orientale, told AFP by phone.
"They wanted fresh supplies but they did not know that elements of the FARDC (regular Congolese army) were there," he said.
"Fighting went on for almost three hours and the FARDC succeeded in repelling the militias who retreated into the jungle."
He said he had no details of casualties but no civilians had been hurt as far as he knew.
Troops from Congo, Uganda and South Sudan have been involved since mid-December in a major joint operation against the LRA in the region, which extends along Congo's borders with Sudan and Uganda.
Over the Christmas period at least 400 civilians were massacred by the LRA, the aid group Caritas has alleged, while the provincial authorities put the total at 271 with many bodies still to be found.
The LRA rebels have retreated to the north of the Garamba park on the Sudanese border, the local authorities say.
The United Nations mission in DR Congo (MONUC) has said the LRA attacks on civilians follows the December 14 joint military operation by the three countries.
The operation follows the repeated refusal of LRA leader Joseph Kony, who is believed to be accompanied by several hundred supporters, to sign a peace deal with Kampala.
The agreement, endorsed by Uganda, was the culmination of a peace process begun in July 2006.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in Uganda in two decades of fighting between the Ugandan government and the LRA. The group is notorious for abductions of children for use as soldiers and sex slaves.
LRA forces have been seen in the Ango region, on the border with Central African Republic (CAR), Bangakya said.
For several days ther authorities in Orientale province have been warning that small groups of rebels have been moving west of the Garamba park towards the CAR.
But the CAR government in Bangui has said it had received no alert as to the presence of the rebels.