By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda rejected on Tuesday charges by rights group Amnesty International that security forces carried out extra-judicial killings during clashes with the royal guards of a tribal king at the weekend.
Officials say at least 46 guards and 16 police died when the security forces stormed the palace of Charles Wesley Mumbere, the king of the Rwenzururu region, near Uganda's border with Congo.
"Security forces were being attacked. They had to defend themselves, they had to protect themselves," Jeje Odongo, Uganda's internal affairs minister, told a press conference in the capital, Kampala.
"Security agencies ... do not have a shoot-to-kill policy. What happened is a situation of self-defense."
Uganda has several tribal kings, who have a largely ceremonial role with some modest regional powers.
The Bakonzo, the dominant tribe in Rwenzori, have longstanding, colonial-era grievances against Uganda's central government. But the latest wave of unrest began started shortly after Uganda's disputed presidential elections in February.
Voters in the area overwhelmingly favored Kizza Besigye, who ran against long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni. Museveni was declared the winner, but Besigye rejected the results and his supporters insist he won the overall poll.
On Monday, rights group Amnesty International accused security forces of using disproportionate force, saying "many people appear to have been summarily shot dead".
The organization said the government should ensure that "police and soldiers observe restraint and desist from extra-judicial executions."
International rights watchdog Human Rights Watch also said on Monday that the government needed to investigate the conduct of security forces during the clashes.
Some opposition officials and critics have accused Museveni's government of provoking unrest in the region as punishment for its support for Besigye.
Mumbere who was detained on Sunday, is being held at a prison in eastern Uganda and 149 of his guards have been arrested.
When asked what the king's fate was, Odongo said: "we are investigating the circumstances. If we are able to establish responsibility ... charges will be preferred."
(Editing by Katharine Houreld, Larry King)