UN peace mission in DR Congo condemns Ugandan rebel attack on civilians

The UN peace mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) on Friday condemned the recent attack on civilians by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the notorious Ugandan rebel battered early in the month in a three- nation operation. In a statement, the 17,000-strong MONUC mission expressed the strongest condemnation and grave concern with the reported massacre of 15 civilians by the LRA in the DR Congo's eastern town of Faradje, which was destroyed after being looted.

The MONUC said it will continue to follow the situation and try its utmost to protect civilians in the region.

The attack seemed a retaliation for an air bombing at the LRA camp jointly launched on Dec. 14 by the DR Congo, Uganda and Southern Sudan.

Kinshasa said LRA leader Joseph Kony's hideout in the Garamba national park was set ablaze with the main body of the camp burnt down, vowing to continue the pursuit until the elimination of its menace from the territory of the DR Congo.

The LRA is notorious for maiming civilians by chopping off their tongues and lips and abducting thousands of children. Since 1986, the rebel group has waged one of the longest guerrilla wars in Africa, roaming between Uganda, Sudan, the DR Congo and the Central African Republic.

It is held responsible for killing tens of thousands of people and displacing about 2 million others for the past two decades.

In October, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the LRA attacks in the northeastern region of Ituri uprooted 50, 000 people. Local authorities said at least 100 civilian were killed and 80 children went missing.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, has issued arrest warrants for the top five leaders of the LRA on charges of war crimes and anti-human crimes.

Kony, who failed to make an appearance on Nov. 29 to ink the final peace document, has signed a series of agreements leading to a truce with the Ugandan government since July 2007. Riek Machar, the vice president of southern Sudan, who acts as the main mediator, said at the end of last month that Kony insisted on revoking the arrest warrant for him before signing the long-awaited deal.

While pursuing the LRA remnants, the Ugandan military says Kony still has a chance to sign the deal with the government.

"He still has a chance, we have an agreement that is ready for him to sign," Ugandan army spokesman Maj. Paddy Ankunda told Xinhua recently . "We are still interested, we are still focused on rescuing women and children that are held captive by the LRA," he added, reported Xinhua.

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