KAMPALA, Uganda – Attackers hacked to death scores of people who sought refuge at a Catholic church in remote eastern Congo a day after Christmas, officials and witnesses said Monday, and the Ugandan army and a rebel group accused each other of carrying out the massacre.
Survivors and witnesses said the killings occurred close to Congo’s border with Sudan, near where the armies of those two countries and Uganda began an offensive this month to root out the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, according to Ugandan army spokesman Capt. Chris Magezi.
A U.N. spokesman, Ivo Brandau, said 120 homes were set ablaze in the area and that thousands of people have fled for fear of further attacks.
The Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group has waged one of Africa’s longest and most brutal wars for the last two decades. The conflict has spilled out of northern Uganda and into Sudan and Congo.
Magezi blamed the Lord’s Resistance Army, but the rebels denied responsibility, with spokesman David Matsanga saying the group had no fighters in the area and accusing Uganda’s army of the killings.
Death toll estimates varied, with some saying as few as 45 and others saying up to 150, in part because the area is so remote.
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