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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 10:43 GMT
Uganda child kidnappings soar
By Ishbel Matheson
BBC East Africa correspondent

An estimated 5,000 children have been abducted by Lord's Resistance Army rebels in northern Uganda in the past nine months.

A new report by the New York based Human Rights Watch says a record number of girls and boys have been snatched from their homes and schools since June last year.

Refugees in camps in northern Uganda
Many northern Ugandans seek safety in camps

The Lord's Resistance Army is a children's army, run by a cruel self-declared prophet, Joseph Kony, and has been fighting to overthrow the government of President Yoweri Museveni.

Those who are kidnapped are brutalised, forced to murder, sometimes even members of their own family, and to abduct other children.

Girls are used as sex slaves by rebel commanders.

Botched offensive

The LRA has terrorised northern Uganda for over 16 years, but the latest upsurge in violence is the result of a botched Ugandan Army offensive.

Last year the military was bragging of a swift victory; instead the operation, code-named Iron Fist, has resulted in a vicious rebel backlash.

In many places in northern Uganda children are now too afraid to sleep in their own beds at night.

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10 Mar 03 |  Africa
Country profile: Uganda
11 Jan 03 |  Country profiles

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