Uganda: July 25, 2002


: The LRA returned from the Sudan well armed and especially well organized: their 30-man groups are now extremely rapid, effective and lethal, thanks to the larger number of available weapons - but their primary targets continue to be civilians. On the morning of 23 July, the LRA abducted a former president's brother during a raid on a village in northern Uganda. Erisanweri Opira, in his late seventies, is the brother of ex-ruler Tito Okello Lutwa (who overthrew Milton Obote in July 1985 and was in turn deposed by President Yoweri Museveni six months later). 

On the 22nd, the LRA clashed with UDPF units in the Ladwong Hills (15km north-west of Palaro, in the county of Aswa). The rebels attacked the village of Palaro, setting fire to 83 huts and four shops in the trading center. The rebels had anti-tank mines with them and were suspected of planting anti-personnel mines in the region. The UDPF claimed to have killed 14 and wounded two LRA in the ensuing firefight. The actual casualty count might be significantly different, with more government dead and only three LRA wounded.

Meanwhile, the UDPF's 61, 67, 24 and 27 Battalions, based in Nabilatuk, Kamusalaba and Napak plains (Nakapiripirit and Moroto districts), were withdrawn from a disarmament exercise on the 22nd and sent north to join the fight against the LRA. Two "armored" battalions (mounted in South African-made Mamba mine proof APCs) had launched the Kotido district [northeastern Uganda] operation on 2 May 2002, to recover illegal weapons from the Jie (tribal) warriors who had been raiding cattle from their neighbors. By 13 May, the 3rd Infantry Division's 405th Brigade had sealed off Kotido district and was using "heavy artillery" against the rustlers.

Aware of the potential LRA landmine threat in the north, the Ugandan Army has been relying more and more on troops mounted in the mine-protected vehicles. Two battalions of UPDF troops from the 1st Division had been transferred to Gulu district in June, beefing up security in the area. The 4th Infantry Division had also deployed several armored vehicles and three tanks to the most sensitive places in the Pader and Kitgum districts (including Patongo and Agago county headquarters) following the 2 July attack on Patongo. - Adam Geibel


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