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Alarming Increase in LRA Attacks Against Civilians

The United Nations refugee agency reports a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and, increasingly, in the Central African Republic in the last four months.

The UN refugee agency reports many people have been killed and thousands uprooted in these attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army. Spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Melissa Fleming, says roving bands of LRA combatants often prey on unprotected villages in remote areas.

She says the rebels' atrocities remain unknown for long periods of time because of the poor roads and bad communication in these isolated regions.

"It just seems to us that this awful murderous group has only one agenda and that is to terrorize, rape and kill with unimaginable brutality," said Melissa Fleming.

The UN refugee agency reports between March 20 and May 6, there were at least 10 LRA raids in southern Central African Republic. It says 36 people were killed, houses were burned and 10,000 people uprooted. It says more than 400 of the victims fled across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But, the DRC itself is not safe from LRA attacks. In late February, the UNHCR reports the LRA killed up to 100 men, women and children in Orientale province in eastern DRC.

Fleming says the Central and Western Equatorial regions of Sudan have experienced repeated attacks by the LRA since August. As a consequence, she says refugees in the area have had to be relocated and thousands of local people have been forced out of their homes.

She says these brutal raids have seriously disrupted the ability of humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to LRA victims.

"This is an issue of a group that runs rampant, allowed to forge a reign of terror," she said. "There have been efforts we are all aware of. And, there are claims that the size of the Lord's Resistance Army has been reduced. However, it is clear that their killing power has not subsequently gone down. Because what we are seeing here is a rise in brutality."

The Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army, which was established in 1986, waged an armed rebellion for years against the government, causing more than two million people in northern Uganda to flee their homes. It abducted more than 10,000 children using them as soldiers and sex slaves.

A few years ago, the LRA was kicked out of its base in Southern Sudan. That's when it began its murderous assaults of villages in the DRC, Sudan and CAR. The UNHCR estimates half a million people have been displaced in these countries.