UN aids Ugandan massacre survivors

UN agencies are struggling to get emergency aid to several thousand people driven out of a Ugandan camp by rebels who killed 192 people there in a weekend massacre.

    Victims of the Lord's Resistance Army fled into the bush

    A UN relief team was due in northern Lira district on

    Tuesday to determine whether aid workers could travel there

    safely to assess needs, UN officials said in New York.

    The World Food Programme was standing by with food supplies

    while the Ugandan Red Cross Society and other aid groups were

    preparing to provide shelter, the officials said.

    Local authorities said the Lord's Resistance Army rebels attacked the camp of

    4800 homeless Ugandans on Saturday evening with automatic

    weapons and hand grenades.

    They then set fire to grass-thatched

    huts in which people were hiding. Victims were found burned,

    shot, bludgeoned or hacked to death, the United Nations said.

    Insurgency

    The survivors managed to escape by fleeing into the bush

    and were being relocated in the town of Lira and other nearby

    areas.

    Lira district already houses 120,000 people driven

    from their homes due to the long conflict in northern and eastern

    Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army has defied repeated

    attempts by the army to crush its 17-year insurgency.

    The UN team on its way to Lira included officials from

    the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the

    children's agency UNICEF.

    The LRA attacked the camp with
    rifles and grenades

    UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement

    calling the killing spree a "senseless massacre" and appealing

    "to all those at the national and international level who are

    in a position to stop the terrible cycle of violence in

    northern Uganda to do their utmost to protect innocent

    civilians".

    UN officials said they were stepping up humanitarian

    efforts in the region, which they say is the world's largest

    neglected humanitarian emergency.

    Abuses

    The LRA says it is fighting to defend the rights of the

    northern Acholi people, but has never made a detailed public

    statement of its demands.

    The movement, led by self-proclaimed

    mystic and former altar boy Joseph Kony, has abducted an

    estimated 30,000 children for use as fighters and sex slaves

    since the mid-1990s.

    Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) - the

    world's first permanent war crimes court - has said it will investigate the

    weekend massacre

    .

    ICC spokeswoman Claudia Perdomo said it would be a "preliminary

    investigation", during which

     the war crimes prosecutor would gather information from the region to see if there was enough to launch a legal probe.

    The ICC, which became a legal reality in July 2003, is the

    permanent tribunal mandated to try war crimes, crimes against

    humanity and genocide.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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