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UN official: Botched attacks on LRA rebels in Congo 'catastrophic' for civilians

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A top UN official said Tuesday that the recent US-backed military attack on Ugandan rebels had been "catastrophic" for Congolese civilians, according to media reports.

At least 900 civilians were killed in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo by small groups from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) as they fled a joint military offensive launched Dec. 14 by Uganda with help from the Congolese military. (See a BBC map of LRA bases and attacks here.)

The UN official's comments followed a New York Times report Friday breaking the news that the US had helped plan and fund the attack from its new Africa Command.

The BBC reported that John Holmes, the UN's humanitarian chief, made the comments while visiting Doruma, a city in northeast Congo near the scene of the atrocities.

But BBC and Reuters also quoted Mr. Holmes as saying that the offensive should continue against the LRA, a rebel group known for its brutal attacks against civilians and its abduction of children to use as child soldiers or sex slaves.

Reuters reports that some 13,000 civilians had fled their homes for Doruma, and that the UN had reported that 700 people – including 540 children – had been abducted by the LRA "to become fighters, porters, or sex slaves."

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