According to Venerable Afred Ajur, the head of the Anglican clergy in Lira, dozens of civilians had been slaughtered in the district over the past few days, with the army powerless to defend them. 

"The slaughter has been systematic for the past two weeks and the people have lost confidence in the government to protect them," said Ajur.

The exact death toll remains a matter of contention. Army spokesman Lieutenant Chris Magezi claimed that 30 LRA rebels had killed 10 civilians, including children, and that "preliminary information" suggested the killings took place a short distance north of the town on Monday night. 

More deaths

But according to Ajur, who visited the site, 13 people were slaughtered at Lira's Ngeta National Teachers College.

"The rebels also killed 17 people at Orum in Lira on Tuesday morning," he added. 

He also said that four other people were killed on Tuesday morning in the Barr area and many more were killed at Abongo Ruot and Abako, including one of his clergymen. 

The Rome-based Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA), citing local government officials and informers, reported on Tuesday that at least 53 people were hacked to death in the attacks. 

The LRA took over the leadership of northern Uganda's rebellion in 1988, two years into a conflict fuelled by the perceived economic marginalisation of the region by the capital Kampala.