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UN: Rebels Turn Congolese Village Into Ghost Town

The UN refugee agency reports the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army, once again, has brutally attacked a village in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The UNHCR says the town of Duru, which first came under attack in September, was besieged earlier in the week leaving the town ruined and its inhabitants terrified.

Duru, in the remote northeastern corner of Congo, has been the scene of successive attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army. The UN refugee agency says the latest attack earlier in the week has turned the village into a virtual ghost town.

UNHCR Spokesman, Andrej Mahecic says staff that flew by helicopter to the area on Wednesday report that this once vibrant village is now deserted and over-grown with vegetation. Despite the risks, he says the survivors of Duru left their hiding places to meet the visiting team.

"Our colleagues were basically shocked by the physical condition of the villagers, many of them clad in rags, looking famished and weak after spending nights in the bush without blankets or any shelter. UNHCR heard distressing accounts of atrocities committed by the Ugandan rebel group, who the survivors said had last raided the village on Monday and Tuesday this week, killing four people, injuring a four-year old girl and abducting a nine-year old boy," he said.

The UNHCR says more than 115,000 people have been forcibly displaced from their homes since the LRA began its relentless attacks on the eastern Congolese villages in September.

The LRA has been waging civil war against the Ugandan government for more than two decades. It has made more than two million Ugandans homeless and abducted more than 10,000 children.

The group used to be based in Southern Sudan. But, it has since shifted its headquarters to Congo, to the grief of the local population.

The villagers in Duru told the UNHCR the rebels looted and torched their houses, forcing residents to flee into the forest.

The LRA denies it is responsible for these attacks and blames them on renegade soldiers from the Ugandan army. Mahecic says the Congolese villagers tell a different story. "The reports that we have heard come directly from the people who have been the victims of these attacks. A number of them have been maimed in these attacks. The displaced population also claims that these attacks were committed by the LRA and have identified the LRA as the perpetrator of these attacks."

Mahecic says the petrified survivors are pleading for protection and aid. They say they do not feel safe and fear new assaults, rapes and abductions.

He says those who remain in Duru are traumatized and in urgent need of assistance. But, he notes aid agencies face huge problems in reaching the affected communities.

He says insecurity and impassable roads are hampering both the delivery and the distribution of relief aid.