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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 15:52 GMT
Uganda rebels take more children
A Ugandan woman at the scene of an LRA massacre
Some 1.6m people have fled their homes because of the fighting

Ugandan rebels have attacked a village in the north abducting 49 people, mainly teenagers, a district security official at the scene told the BBC.

It comes as the International Criminal Court (ICC) said prosecution of Ugandan rebel commanders could be delayed to allow peace efforts to continue.

The BBC's Will Ross said attacks have escalated in recent weeks since peace talks stalled.

The rebels kidnap the children to make them sex slaves and fighters.

Some 1.6 million people have been driven from their homes into refugee camps during the 19-year conflict.

Boosting ranks

Ten well-armed LRA rebels attacked Minakulu village, about 30km south of Gulu on Thursday night and looted food before abducting their victims, the security official said.

I have to understand the interests of the victims
Luis Morena-Ocampo
ICC chief prosecutor

He said the fact that they abducted so many teenagers suggests this was not only a food looting spree but also an operation intended to boost the rebel ranks.

Ugandan military spokesman Tabaro Kiconco confirmed the attack but said just 10 people had been abducted and were later rescued.

Recently LRA attacks on both civilian and military targets have increased significantly.

In the last two weeks there have been another five reported attacks on civilians in which at least 25 were abducted and 12 people killed.

Humanitarian sources in Gulu note with concern that the attacks have often followed claims by military, government and other officials that the war against the LRA is won or nearly won, our correspondent says.

'Strong case'

Meanwhile, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Morena-Ocampo said he may delay the prosecution of the rebels after he met a delegation of religious, cultural and district leaders from northern Uganda.

The ICC has indicated that soon it intends to issue arrest warrants for several senior LRA rebel commanders.

The chief prosecutor said he was still gathering evidence, and had already built a strong case.

But he said he was sensitive to the concerns and mindful of traditional justice and reconciliation processes, and in exceptional circumstances he could delay issuing warrants.

"I am collecting evidence but at the same time assessing carefully what happened, because I have to understand the interests of the victims," he told the BBC.

Many people in the region feel the ICC's work is likely to dissuade the rebels from accepting an amnesty offered by the Ugandan government.

A former minister working as a mediator between the rebels and the Ugandan government has said she would have no option but to abandon the whole peace process if the warrants were issued.





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