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Hunt for LRA rebels intensifies, MONUC deploys troops to border

KINSHASA, 2 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - The hunt for Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) intensified on Wednesday when the UN mission there, known as MONUC, deployed a team of observers to the border with Sudan and announced that it would send 150 peacekeepers by the end of the week.

The MONUC military spokesman, Lt-Col Thierry Provendier, told reporters on Wednesday in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, that the peacekeepers would be deployed to the village of Aba, near the Garamba National Park, in Orientale Province. Hundreds of LRA rebels crossed over from Sudan into the park in September.

"If there are LRA elements on Congolese territory, we will disarm them and repatriate them," he said.

Provendier said MONUC and Congolese soldiers would undertake the joint operation in the park. He added that the observers and peacekeepers from the Nepalese contingent would work with two Congolese army battalions, deployed to Aba two weeks ago.

MONUC's deployment follows an advance joint mission to the area, led by Gen Patrick Cammaert, the commander of MONUC's Eastern Division and Gen Padiri Bulendu, commander of the 9th Military Region (Orientale Province) of the Congolese army.

The move followed a request last week by the Ugandan government to deploy its troops, jointly with the Congolese army, to northeastern and eastern Congo to disarm the LRA and other rebel groups operating in the area.

However, Congolese authorities rejected Uganda's request, saying the LRA had already left Congo and returned to southern Sudan. Uganda maintained that the LRA rebels were back in the DRC.

The military chiefs of the two countries recently agreed to set up a joint commission to establish the exact location of the LRA rebels in Congo.

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