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Kony, 250 rebels trapped in swamp

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th February 2009 03:00 AM

LRA chief Joseph Kony and about 250 rebels are trapped in a swamp in the Garamba jungle in north-eastern DR Congo, a Congolese government spokesman said on Saturday.

LRA chief Joseph Kony and about 250 rebels are trapped in a swamp in the Garamba jungle in north-eastern DR Congo, a Congolese government spokesman said on Saturday.

By Barbara Among

LRA chief Joseph Kony and about 250 rebels are trapped in a swamp in the Garamba jungle in north-eastern DR Congo, a Congolese government spokesman said on Saturday.

“We think that Joseph Kony is with them. The hardcore of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is in a swampy forest in the Garamba national park,” spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP news agency.

“They have no way out of these swamps except to surrender,” he added.

Kony is the target of a joint operation by Congolese, Ugandan and South Sudanese forces that was launched last December.

Mende said President Yoweri Museveni and Congolese leader Joseph Kabila would meet on the common border before the end of February to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, two LRA commanders Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, who were reportedly ready to surrender, failed to appear at a rendezvous near the Congolese border, a UN official said.

Odhiambo and his deputy Ongwen had been in negotiations mediated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to hand themselves in. The UN peacekeeping force in Sudan, UNMIS, had been preparing their return to Uganda.

“For reasons that remain unclear none of the combatants had presented themselves at the designated rendezvous as of Saturday afternoon,” said David Gressly, UNMIS regional coordinator for southern Sudan.

Odhiambo and Ongwen are wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes.

The spokesperson for the joint military offensive, Capt. Deo Akiiki, expressed doubt over the intention of the two to surrender.

“Odhiambo is still buying time to surrender. IOM and the UN are doing their part as we do ours in ensuring that he comes out. Going by the time since he declared his intention, we can’t take it serious until he surrenders,” Akiiki said.

Odhiambo reportedly called the IOM three weeks ago to seek a way to defect and get amnesty from the Government.

Meanwhile, the US military has defended its involvement in Operation Lightning Thunder.

The joint offensive has been criticised for being poorly executed and leading to hundreds of civilian deaths.

Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, the AFRICOM deputy, said the attack had diminished the LRA’s ability to abduct.

“I don’t think (the offensive) caused the atrocities or casualties,”said Yates during an interview at the AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

As a result of the operation, Yates explained, some LRA abductees were able to escape and a number of rebels killed.

AFRICOM provided satellite phones, intelligence and fuel. The decision to provide military advisers was authorised by former US President George W. Bush.

Kony, 250 rebels trapped in swamp

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