Obama sends troops to hunt ruthless African rebel army

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The Independent US

President Barack Obama is to send around 100 US troops to central Africa to support regional forces battling the notorious Lord's Resistance Army.

Mr Obama told Congress the troops will act as advisers in the campaign to hunt down the guerrilla group, which has been accused of widespread atrocities, and capture its leader, Joseph Kony. A small force is already present in the country, and additional troops arriving will be sent to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pentagon officials said the bulk of the deployment will be of special operations troops, who will provide security and combat training to African units.

Long considered one of Africa's most brutal rebel groups, the Lord's Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda more than 20 years ago but has been pushing westward. The US administration and human rights groups say its atrocities have left thousands dead and have put as many as 300,000 Africans to flight. They have charged the group with seizing children to bolster its ranks or forcing them to become sex slaves. Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court under a 2005 warrant for crimes against humanity in his native Uganda. He is believed to be hiding along the Sudan-Congo border.

Obama's announcement came in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner in which he stressed the limited nature of the deployment. "Although the US forces are combat-equipped, they will... not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defence," it said.

The US has stepped up its support for Uganda, which has played a key role in battling extremists in Somalia, recently sending nearly $45 million (£28.5m) in military equipment.