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Hunt for African warlord Kony is put on hold

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:27 p.m.

NAIROBI — The Ugandan military has suspended its hunt for war crimes suspect Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, delivering a major setback to capturing a notorious warlord accused in the abductions of tens of thousands of children over the past three decades.

The announcement on Wednesday was made days after rebels seized power in the Central African Republic, where Kony is believed to be hiding, and then refused to cooperate with Ugandan troops stationed in the country. As a result, Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said the hunt for Kony would be suspended “until further notice.”

For the past several years, Ugandan forces have sought Kony and the LRA, as his militia is called, in the jungles of the Central African Republic, as well as in Uganda, Congo and South Sudan. The Ugandans head an African Union mission of about 3,000 troops, the bulk of whom are from Uganda, in the Central African Republic. In late 2011, the Obama administration dispatched about 100 U.S. Special Forces troops to advise in the effort to capture Kony.

The Obama administration offered up to $5 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of Kony, two of his top aides and a Rwandan rebel leader suspected of crimes against humanity.

Since the 1980s, the LRA, which Kony formed in the 1980s to overthrow Uganda's government, has kidnapped children and transformed them into killers and sex slaves. Several years ago, the militia left Uganda but continued to terrorize villagers in central Africa across a swath the size of Texas, taking advantage of weak governments and porous borders.

But over the past two years, the militia has significantly weakened, numbering no more than a few hundred fighters, according to U.N. officials and analysts. There have been high-profile defections, fragmenting the group, which now seldom abducts children and stages assaults mostly for food and supplies.

But the announcement has raised fears among international human rights groups that Kony and the LRA could regroup and reignite their campaign of brutality if African and American forces halt their pursuit.

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