"The LRA has traditionally recruited children in Uganda and its presence in Congo, in the past, has been as a kind of back base," Mountain told Al Jazeera.

"Unfortunately they have now taken up actions against the civilian population and they are spreading through a very large area in small numbers, they are not a large force."

Christmas Day massacre

Mountain said that 600 Congolese were killed in attacks on two villages on Christmas Day as part of a "reprisal" for a military offensive launched by DR Congo, Uganda and southern Sudan.

"This has put enormous fear amongst the population - if even a handful of LRA combatants are approaching, or even the rumour that they might be approaching -leads them to empty the village," he said.

The fighting between the government forces and the LRA has driven 220,000 Congolese from their homes since December 2008, Mountain said.

Kony has said that the LRA is fighting to defend the Biblical Ten Commandments, but the group has also stated its desire to topple Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, and has complained of a number of local grieveances.

The LRA declared a unilateral ceasefire in August 2006 and a truce was agreed later the same month.

However, as negotiations for a lasting peace dragged on LRA fighters began to drift away from two designated assembly points and the talks broke down.

Another possible breakthrough came in February 2008, when the Ugandan government and LRA signed a deal stipulating that Kampala would set up special courts to handle accusations of war crimes against LRA leaders, rather than handing them over to the International Criminal Court.

But Kony has repeatedly failed to show up to sign a final peace deal.