Fears of rebellion as Uganda's army battles gunmen

AP News
Posted: Jul 07, 2014 8:14 AM

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan troops have killed more than 60 suspected insurgents accused of taking part in weekend assaults on police stations and military barracks, a military official said on Monday amid ongoing clashes with gunmen in a volatile region near Uganda's border with Congo.

More than 80 suspected militants are now in custody, said Lt. Ninsiima Rwemijuma, a spokesman for troops in Uganda's Rwenzori region.

Men armed with guns and crude weapons killed at least a dozen civilians, police and soldiers on Saturday — multiple attacks that appeared to target military and police installations.

The violence is the worst on Ugandan territory since the 1990s, when the government of Uganda's long-serving president faced rebellions in the west and northern parts of the country.

The attacks took place in Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo, three Ugandan districts with a history of anti-government insurgency and tensions among rival tribes competing for limited natural resources in a mountainous region of western Uganda. Bundibugyo, where the most deadly clashes happened, is a frontier district located more than 300 kilometers (about 186 miles) from Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

Military officials have recently warned that a Ugandan Islamic extremist rebel group known as ADF, which launched a violent insurgency in the area in the 1990s, is trying to regroup. The group's fighters now operate in neighboring eastern Congo.

Although the latest attacks appeared coordinated, Uganda's military says there is still no evidence of a full-blown insurgency. The government insists the attacks were likely carried out by "radical elements" within a cultural group known as Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu, whose members — from the Bakonzo tribe — have long had a tense relationship with the neighboring Bamba tribe.

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"It is hard to confirm that this is a rebel group or not," said Rwemijuma, the Ugandan military official. "This is a subject matter that needs investigation."

The military has described the attackers as a "tribal militia" motivated by rivalry with other ethnic groups, especially over farmland.