The Ugandan military has launched a crackdown on Ugandans suspected of supporting a resurgent rebellion, opposition politicians said Wednesday, warning that the military operation could soon target politicians opposed to the government.
The Uganda People's Congress, one of the country's oldest political parties, said 86 Ugandans have been detained at secret locations around the country as the army moves to combat what it views as a resurgent rebel group _ the Allied Democratic Forces _ in central and eastern Uganda.
The army said it is holding 60 people and denies its methods are violent.
Joseph Bbosa, a Uganda People's Congress party official, said there were "numerous arrests being carried out throughout the country." None of those in custody had been produced in court, he told a new conference in Kampala.
The Ugandan army believes the ADF, which once terrorized parts of Uganda including the capital, is actively regrouping in eastern Congo and could attack Uganda.
Col. Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for the Ugandan army, told The Associated Press last week that Allied Democratic Forces rebels were conducting military drills in three camps in eastern Congo, where the Congolese national army has no reach. Kulayigye says the drills are being conducted 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the border.
"We have suspects that we believe are involved in subversive activities," he said. "For us, being in the opposition is not criminal."
Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the Ugandan army commander, visited the Congolese capital of Kinshasa last week to try and compel the Congolese government to take action against the rebels, according to Kulayigye.
The Allied Democratic Forces, which was formed in the 1990s by Muslims who felt sidelined by the policies of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has been actively recruiting among Muslim families in central Uganda. It is led by a convert to Islam named Jamil Mukulu. Analysts say the group is more likely to stage a terrorist strike than wage a conventional war.
The group, which has always used Congo as its base, gained notoriety in the late 1990s for its grenade attacks in Kampala as well as for the 1998 massacre of 80 students in a frontier town.
Opposition politicians here fear the government is using the threat of rebellion to intimidate the political opposition and to bring up trumped-up treason charges against those who have long opposed the government. They say the suspects, some of whom are political activists in their villages, are being tortured.
"We are getting concerned," said Michael Osinde, who runs the human rights desk at the Uganda People's Congress. "If they have been arrested on genuine charges, why not take them to a police station?"
Ugandan army officials say the Allied Democratic Forces is the most lethal of several rebel groups that have sprung up in opposition to the government of Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986. The reports of fresh rebel activity come at a time of political turmoil for Museveni, who is facing increasing criticism within and outside his own party for what many see as his role in aiding official corruption.