New LRA attacks trigger more displacement in Southern Sudan

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Thousands of civilians have fled the fresh attacks by the Ugandan rebel group, so called "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA) in Sudan's remote Western Equatoria region. On 12 August, the LRA carried out a series of attacks in Ezo district near the Sudanese border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reportedly killing two people and injuring three others. They also abducted ten girls from a local church, pillaged and torched homes and stole food.

The next day, the rebel group struck again at Bereamburu village, some 35 kilometres from Yambio, the regional capital, burning the local church and a health centre and looting medical supplies.

On 13 August, as a result of the intensifying LRA attacks, the UN was forced to suspend all humanitarian activities in the area and 29 humanitarian workers, including seven UNHCR staff, were evacuated by helicopter from Ezo to Yambio.

The LRA attacks have triggered widespread panic and fear in the region where South Sudan borders the DRC and the Central African Republic (CAR). Many of those on the run are refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), who were already forced to flee the earlier LRA incursions. Local authorities say some 5,000 IDPs from Ezo and the nearby areas have now arrived in Yambio and the surrounding villages, some 160 km south-east of the conflict-hit areas.

UNHCR condemns the continued LRA attacks on civilian population and is deeply concerned about the fate of the large number of refugees and IDPs caught in the latest attacks in several villages along the borders of the three countries. There are some 3,500 refugees from the DRC and CAR and an estimated 25,000 IDPs in Ezo and neighbouring districts. These people are now without protection or assistance.

Since October 2008, the LRA, blamed for numerous attacks and widespread atrocities, has extended its deadly reach into the DRC, Sudan and the CAR, terrorizing the civilian population and causing chaos and mayhem. Some 360,000 Congolese have been uprooted in successive LRA attacks in the Orientale province in north-eastern DRC, while, while some 20,000 others have fled to neighbouring Sudan and the CAR, according to UN estimates.