A militia that has terrorized Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo has stepped up its attacks this year, displacing more than 4,200 people, the United Nations' refugee agency said Friday.
The Lord’s Resistance Army and its infamous leader, Joseph Kony, gained new attention this year through a viral video urging Kony's capture. The militia has kidnapped children to be soldiers and sex slaves, and has grotesquely mutilated its victims.
Long a terrifying force in Uganda, the militia moved to neighboring countries years ago. In the Central African Republic, attacks have resumed after a nearly yearlong lull, with 11 this year, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva.
In Congo, 13 attacks have been carried out in just three weeks in March, she said, resulting in two deaths and 13 abductions. Over time, attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army have displaced or made refugees of 440,000 people in Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, the U.N. agency said.
The three countries that have suffered recent attacks teamed up with Uganda to launch a joint military task force to pursue Kony and his militia. The effort has been backed by the U.N. and the African Union. The United States also has sent special forces to help stop the group.
Fleming said the refugee agency welcomed the "unprecedented" initiative to end the atrocities in the region and urged all involved to respect human rights and minimize any risk to civilians.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Members of the Lord's Resistance Army wait during a meeting between their leader, Joseph Kony, and a delegation of Ugandan officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Sudanese border in 2006. Credit: Associated Press