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UN to Probe Rebel Attack on Refugees in Uganda - 2002-08-06


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is sending two separate fact-finding teams into northern Uganda, following Monday's devastating attack by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army on the Acholi-Pii refugee camp. The UNHCR says it will try to locate the refugees who fled from the attack.

The Acholi-Pii camp was home to 24,000 Sudanese refugees. All of them fled the camp after the pre-dawn raid Monday by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

The U.N. refugee agency said at least 14 people were killed. But, it said a camp manager who briefly toured the area in an army helicopter late Monday believes the actual toll could be much higher.

UNHCR staff members, accompanied by aid workers from the World Food Program and an official from the Ugandan prime minister's office are traveling to the area. UNHCR Spokesman Kris Janowski said the group will break up into two teams to search for the refugees who fled from the devastating attack and may be in need of help. "What we need to do is we need to find the people who fled from the site," he said. "Some of them may be very close to the actual scene of the attack, about 10,000. Some of them have shown up in other places. This is where the team is going, basically to see how these people are doing. We also have government representatives with us who will help us find sites that would be safer."

Mr. Janowski said details of the attack remain sketchy. But he said information available so far indicates that two local staff from the aid agency International Rescue Committee probably were abducted. He said two Ugandan schoolteachers also are reported kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance rebels.

Shortly before the attack, the U.N.'s World Food Program had delivered $150,000 worth of food to Acholi-Pii. Mr. Janowski said the rebels looted the camp, stealing all the food and medical supplies on hand. The attackers also burned five vehicles and the staff quarters and destroyed office equipment.

The Lord's Resistance Army was created in 1987 to overturn the Ugandan government. Over the years, the group has kidnapped thousands of children in northern Uganda and brought them back to its base camp in southern Sudan. The boys are used as soldiers and the girls as sex slaves.

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