Lords Resistance Army rebels have kidnapped 17 people from a village in eastern Central African Republic, a senior local official said on Thursday.
The rebels are notorious for mutilating civilians and kidnapping children for use as fighters. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for the LRA’s messianic leader, Joseph Kony, and other senior commanders.
The rebels struck on Monday, snatching three people in the morning and forcing them to carry their goods before releasing them in the evening, said Ghislain Kolengo, prefect of Haut Mbomou region.
“Very early (on Tuesday), they attacked Kadjema village and kidnapped 17 people who are still in captivity. I hope that our forces in the area and the Ugandans will find these people and bring them back,” Kolengo told Reuters.
The population then fled the town, he said.
The LRA is from northern Uganda but was driven out by a military offensive a decade ago. Today, its fighters roam a poorly policed area straddling the borders between Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
All three countries have faced their own conflicts and Uganda, another regional neighbour, said last week it planned to withdraw by the end of the year its troops involved in an operation to hunt down LRA rebels.
The LRA has been weakened but its fighters still attack civilians. It has abducted nearly 350 this year, according to the LRA Crisis Tracker, which documents rebel attacks.
Meanwhile, at least 11 were killed in clashes in the north of the country involving former rebel group called the Seleka, according to a brigade commander in the town of Ngaoudaye.
The first clash happened on Sunday and led to the deaths of seven Seleka members who were leading cattle through the town en route for Cameroon. The former rebels took revenge, killing six civilians, said the commander, who declined to be named.
Central African Republic descended into chaos in March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim Seleka seized power, triggering reprisals by “anti-balaka” Christian militias who drove tens of thousands of Muslims from the south.
President Faustin-Archange Touadéra took office in March after elections aimed at drawing a line under the crisis.
(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Alan Crosby)