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UN refugee agency sends fact-finding team to scene of Uganda attack

UN refugee agency sends fact-finding team to scene of Uganda attack

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announced plans to send two separate fact-finding teams into northern Uganda where rebels yesterday launched a deadly attack on a camp housing thousands of refugees.

The pre-dawn raid by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the Acholi-Pii camp killed over a dozen people and dispersed all 24,000 Sudanese refugees who were living there, according to UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski.

“Details of Monday’s attack remain sketchy,” he said, citing one report that at least 14 people had died – eight refugees and six Ugandans – but emphasizing that the actual toll could be much higher.

The rebels also kidnapped a number of people, looted warehouses and destroyed property. “According to the information available so far, two International Rescue Committee (IRC) local staff – the agency’s doctor and a logistician – have been abducted by the rebels,” the spokesman said. The IRC was UNHCR’s main partner at Acholi-Pii. “Two Ugandan schoolteachers are also reported kidnapped by the LRA rebels.”

The insurgents also stole food from the camp’s warehouse, including wheat flour, 800 cases of cooking oil and corn soya blend. The World Food Programme (WFP) had recently delivered $150,000 worth of food to Acholi-Pii. In addition to looting, the LRA attackers “burned five vehicles and the staff living quarters and destroyed various office equipment.”

UNHCR staff travelling to the area will be accompanied by WFP personnel as well as an official from the Ugandan prime minister’s office. The first team will travel to Kiryondongo, 200 km north of the capital. Kampala, where some of those who fled from Acholi-Pii took shelter. Another team will go to the nearby town of Lira where up to 2,000 Acholi-Pii refugees are believed to have fled.

On the fate of others who had fled, Mr. Janowski said, “We understand that about 10,000 Acholi-Pii refugees have reached Rachkoko, 20 km west from Acholi-Pii, [while] 10,000 refugees may still be in the vicinity of the destroyed camp."

There are 155,000 Sudanese refugees living in settlements in northern Uganda, according to UNHCR. The region has been unstable for some 15 years, and there are more than 500,000 Ugandan displaced persons as a result of the LRA’s attacks.