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Army deploys 2,000 troops to disarm LRA rebels

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KINSHASA, 5 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has begun deploying at least 2,000 men to the northeastern town of Aba near the Sudan border to disarm 400 Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels who recently entered the country.

"Before we use force we will see if MONUC [the UN Mission in the DRC] can convince the rebels to surrender voluntarily," an aide close to armed forces chief of staff Lt-Gen Kisempia Sungilanga Lombe told IRIN on Tuesday, on condition of anonymity.

However, MONUC officials have not yet met with the LRA, MONUC spokesman Lt-Col Thierry Provendier said on Tuesday. The rebels are holed up in the remote Garamba National park, in Orientale's Haut Uele District.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had said on Thursday that he would send troops into the Congo if LRA rebels there did not disarm by the end of October.

Congolese Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi responded on Friday, saying Congo would defend itself against any Ugandan invasion.

The Congolese government also officially asked the UN Security Council to impose fresh sanctions against Uganda, the Italian-based Missionary Service News Agency reported on Wednesday.

The Council president said on Tuesday that it welcomed the DRC's plans to disarm the LRA although he was concerned that there were still other armed foreign groups in eastern Congo. In particular, he deplored the failure of a largest group the Rwandan rebels, Les Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda to disarm voluntarily and repatriate, as it had pledged to do in March.

The Congolese government set a deadline of 30 September for all illegal foreign combatants to leave the country voluntarily or be disarmed and repatriated by force.

Provendier confirmed that MONUC was already supporting the Congolese army's operations to disarm the LRA by force.

"The soldiers came [from the town of Bunia to Aru] in their trucks," Provendier said. "We are now helping them to reach [Aba] with our helicopters."


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