Ugandan rebels abduct up to 100 schoolgirls in raid on village

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The Independent Online

Rebels abducted up to 100 girls from a school in eastern Uganda yesterday after attacking a nearby town, army spokesman Major Shaban Bantariza said.

Lord's Resistance Army rebels raided Soroti, a town approximately 175 miles north east of Kampala and then abducted pupils from the Roman Catholic church-run Lwala Girls Secondary School. Thousands were forced to flee the town. Later, the rebels ambushed a bus in a small village about 19 miles north of Soroti, killing at least four people, Major Bantariza said.

Major Bantariza said the rebels - who are estimated to have abducted up to 20,000 children, turning the boys into fighters and the girls into concubines - are being pursued to determine the number of girls abducted this time.

Following the attack, the remaining girls and staff fled from the school, Father Athanasius Mubiru, a priest from the area, said. Two nearby boys' schools and a hospital have also been abandoned and it was not immediately clear where they all went but other residents fleeing Soroti appeared to be heading further east for Mbale - a town near the border with Kenya.

The rebels do not normally operate so far south but they have recently infiltrated the area surrounding Soroti and, in response, the government sent troops to the region.

Fighting between rebels and government forces has intensified recently as hopes fade for the settlement of the 17-year-old conflict in the country. Earlier this month, Sudan granted Uganda another six-week extension to an agreement allowing Ugandan troops to pursue the rebels across the borders to their bases in southern Sudan, as part of President Yoweri Museveni's "Operation Iron Fist".

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