Monday, January 19, 2009

Death toll climbs

According to a story in the New Vision newspaper in Kampala, Uganda, hundreds of civilians were burned to death on Saturday by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

The rebels set ablaze a church called Bima in the Democratic Republic of Congo at midnight as the faithful prayed, according to the New Vision.

It is not yet known how many were in the church at the time, according to Radio Okapi, the UN's radio network in Congo. The rebels reportedly attacked others with axes and knives, slitting throats and crushing skulls.

The massacre occurred in the towns of Tora and Libombi, and two nearby mining communities located 130km from Dungu, the base of operations for the Ugandan military which is chasing the LRA.

According to the president of the civil society of Dungu, Felicien Balani: “The LRA entered around midnight. They surprised the faithful of the church who were in a prayer vigil. They burned them in the church,” said Balani.

The rebels also burnt several houses at the gold mine town of Tora. So far recorded are five deaths and six injured.

Civil society organisations working in Dungu said over 100 people had fled the area by yesterday.

“In Doruma, it was really awful. They had killed at least 300 people. We were in a village where there are only six survivors, all the others were killed,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, of Human Rights Watch.

“One of the few survivors, a 72-year-old man who arrived late for Christmas lunch, hid in the bushes and watched in horror as his wife, children and grandchildren were killed,” Woudenberg told New Vision.

After the massacre, the rebels “ate the Christmas feast the villagers had prepared, and then slept among the dead bodies before continuing on their trail of destruction and death” through another 12 villages.

Another 86 people were massacred in the most recent incidents.

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