Uganda: April 22, 2003

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After an emergency meeting in the northern town of Gulu with senior army commanders and Presidential Peace Team members, President Museveni ordered the Ugandan army to resume military operations against LRA rebels in northern Uganda's Pader district, which has been designated as a safe zone for the last six weeks. 

The rebels aren't waiting around for the army to hit them. During a heavy downpour on the 21st, they ambushed a convoy of 13 vehicles at 3 p.m. near a village about 60km north of Gulu town. An RPG hit the lead army truck, killing three or four troops (including one officer). When the shooting stopped there was a total of eight killed and 17 wounded, the majority of them civilians. Others were abducted by the LRA.

The three new Mi-24s will obviously play a crucial role in this new offensive, but President Museveni warned the army to stop deploying unqualified personnel and loading explosives on the newly acquired helicopter gunships. 

Late on the 20th, one of the newly acquired Mi-24 helicopter gunships suffered a midair mishap during a test flight over the Atol Hills in northern Uganda, 40km north east of Gulu town. A grenade went off in the cabin, killing two airmen and wounding the other three. The explosion was due either to poor handling or a grenade launcher could have gone off (AGS-17 belt fed grenade launchers, which have been mounted in some gunship doors, can be tricky if the ammunition is bounced around). 

The cabin was reportedly slightly damaged since the crew absorbed most of the blast. Ugandan officers reported that the helicopter landed leaking fuel at the army outpost at the Atto Hill Health Center, 20km northeast of Gulu. Air Force engineers have since been sent to repair the helicopter. 

The army had been relying on one combat and one spotter helicopter for strikes against the rebels in northern Uganda, although an Ugandan Member of Parliament claimed that an army gunship had raided towns his constituency on 15 April and 18 April, killing more than 100 people. - Adam Geibel


 

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