Gunmen killed at least 12 people in what appeared to be coordinated attacks targeting police posts and military barracks in three districts near the border with Congo, Uganda's military and police said on Sunday.
Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga said in a statement that the victims – mostly police and civilians – were killed by “thugs” armed with guns, spears and machetes.
Seventeen of the gunmen were arrested and are in custody, he said.
Ugandan troops killed at least 41 of the gunmen before containing the situation, military spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said.
The death toll from the Saturday clashes could rise further as Uganda’s security forces pursue the fleeing gunmen, who are believed to be radical members of a tribal group that has long felt neglected by the central government.
The attacks took place in Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo, three Ugandan districts with a history of anti-government insurgency and tensions among rival tribes competing for the limited natural resources in a mountainous region of western Uganda.
Bundibugyo, where the most deadly attacks took place, is a frontier district located more than 300 kilometres (about 186 miles) from the capital Kampala.
The attacks were likely carried out by “radical elements” within a group known as Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu, whose members – from the Bakonzo tribe – have long had a tense relationship with the neighbouring Bamba tribe, local police said.
Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst with regional security think tank Fanaka Kwawote, said the Bakonzo and Bamba tribes regularly fight over natural resources, especially farmland, and that some may feel that the security forces are not always fair arbiters in such conflicts.
He said it was possible that some members of the local police were being "individually targeted".
Uganda’s military says the recent violence in the region has been sparked by these longstanding tribal tensions and denies that there has been a resurgence of militant activity.
Military officials recently warned that an Islamist rebel group known as the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) – which launched a violent insurgency in the region in the 1990s – is trying to regroup.
Uganda is concerned that ADF-NALU poses a threat to its oil fields in the Albertine rift basin where Tullow Oil, Total and China’s CNOOC are preparing to begin commercial production.
The group’s fighters are now active mainly in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Enanga said security officials are now questioning the suspects to establish the motive for the attacks.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)
Date created : 2014-07-06