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Aid Groups: US Must Do More to Stop LRA in Central Africa

The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, answers journalists' questions following a meeting with UN officials in southern Sudan, Nov 2006 (file photo)

A coalition of human rights groups says the United States should do more to stop the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.

In a joint statement, the 39 groups urge the Obama administration to increase efforts to arrest leaders of the LRA, which continues to terrorize communities in three African countries.

The groups also ask the White House to appoint a special envoy for the affected region and support stronger U.N. peacekeeping efforts there.

The coalition says in the first four months of 2011, the LRA carried out at least 120 attacks, killing 81 civilians and kidnapping 193 others, many of them children.

It says the governments of Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have not shown the capability or resolve to protect civilians from the LRA abuses.

The coalition said a U.S. law adopted a year ago gave the Obama administration an "unprecedented mandate to end LRA atrocities and help affected communities recover."

The human rights groups said while the United States has made improvements in some areas, it has failed to strengthen efforts to protect civilians and arrest top LRA leaders.

Three LRA leaders - Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen - are wanted by the International Criminal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The LRA, once based in northern Uganda, is accused of killing, kidnapping, and mutilating tens of thousands of people across central Africa over the last two decades.

The rebels have split into small groups in recent years, attacking and looting villages across the region.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.