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Friday, February 4, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Uganda deaths top 12,000; children pay highest price

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Up to 12,000 people have been killed in hostile action during a war in northern Uganda and many more have died from hunger, disease and malnutrition resulting from the conflict, according to a draft State Department report.

The report, mandated by Congress, estimated 20,000 children have been abducted since insurgents led by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) began their uprising against the central government in 1987.

The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, has been using southern Sudan as a launching pad for attacks against the Ugandan government, the study said. Kony is described in the report as "erratic and vicious."

"LRA tactics to brutalize civilians include murder, looting, burning houses, torture and mutilation of children for the purposes of forced conscription, labor and sexual servitude," said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The study noted that according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, LRA attacks had displaced nearly 95 percent of the ethnic Acholi population in three districts of northern Uganda by the end of 2004.

The report called the LRA a "bizarre and cult-like group." It once claimed as goals the toppling of the Ugandan government and the creation of a government guided by the Ten Commandments.

According to the study, the LRA drew upon grievances and disaffection in the Acholi community against a government it perceived as dominated by people from central and western Uganda.

"Today, the LRA has no discernible political agenda and survives through a vicious cycle in which children are abducted, brutalized and are forced to become soldiers or the 'wives' of LRA commanders and sent back to carry out the next wave of terror and abductions," the report said.

It added that the LRA has "benefited significantly" from food, arms and refuge provided by the Sudanese government and government-supported militia groups.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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