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UN says no sign of LRA in the east, UN Mission says

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KINSHASA, 10 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Reports that Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighters have returned to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have not yet been substantiated, according to the military spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

"For the moment, there is no tangible evidence to confirm an LRA presence," Lt-Col Thierry Provendier, the MONUC military spokesman, said on Wednesday.

His statement was based on an account by a team of UN observers and troops investigating the reported presence of LRA rebels in and around the Garamba National Park, in northeastern Congo where it borders Sudan, since 2 November.

LRA deputy leader Vincent Otti and some 400 rebel fighters sought refuge in the area in September, after fleeing Ugandan troops hunting them in southern Sudan.

On 29 September, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni threatened to invade eastern Congo if the authorities failed to expel the LRA.

The Congolese army declared on 7 October that all LRA rebels had left, after thousands of government troops entered the area with MONUC's logistical support.

On Saturday, however, the Ugandan army said the LRA had again entered the Congo. The Ugandan Army northern base overall intelligence coordinator, Col Charles Otema Awany, also told the Kampala government daily newspaper, the New Vision, that LRA leader Joseph Kony was amongst the rebels.

According to Provendier, the UN observers were supported by 144 Nepalese UN troops who together with Congolese soldiers searched for the LRA northeast of the town of Aba to the villages of Ima and Misa, as well as Mamuru and Banga on the Sudanese border. Both sets of troops said they did not find any sign of the LRA.


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