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Obama commits US to helping hunt for LRA leader Joseph Kony

President Obama signed a new law to help four African nations hunt down LRA leader Joseph Kony, who's followers have brutalized thousands over the past 23 years. Kony has been indicted for war crimes by an international court.

By Max DelanyCorrespondent / May 25, 2010

One of the world's most wanted rebel chiefs, Joseph Kony (l.) of the Lord's Resistance Army, seen in Nairobi, May 24, 2006. President Obama has committed to help hunt for the LRA leader.

Reuters TV/File

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Dungu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Lying on her hospital bed with her left arm heavily bandaged, three-year-old Suza Anipkidu is one of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s most recent victims.

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Four days earlier, Suza, was following her grandfather, Samuel Mizalogbe, into the fields outside their village. That was when they came across the rebels.

Immediately they shot and killed her grandfather and another elderly man accompanying him. When Suza instinctively ran over to her grandfather’s body they spotted her and then shot her.

“They thought she was dead and so they left,” says her mother, Modestine Ngbadulezele, as she watches over her daughter as she recovers from the bullet wound. For the family, it’s not the first encounter with the LRA. In March, two relatives were abducted when the LRA attacked the village.

Attacks, such as this one, for the past 23 years, are why President Barack Obama signed a law Monday that commits the US to helping four African nations to bring an "end to the brutality and destruction," said Mr. Obama in a statement. "By any measure, [the LRA's] actions are an affront to human dignity."

Kony's trail of tears

Originally from neighboring Uganda, the LRA is led by Joseph Kony, self-proclaimed prophet who was indicted in 2005 for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). His followers have become infamous for mutilating their victims and abducting children to be used as porters, fighters, and sex slaves.

In December 2008, after Kony failed yet again to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government, the Ugandan army spearheaded an all-out attack on the LRA’s bases deep in the jungles of northeast Congo.

The attack, partly funded and planned by the US, failed to kill Kony or his top commanders and the LRA splintered into small groups, surviving over the next 18 months by spreading into Central African Republic and Sudan – even reaching as far as Sudan’s Darfur region according to some reports.

Since then, the UN says, at least 1,616 people have been killed, many hacked to death with machetes, and over 1,800 people abducted in Congo alone.

While governments in the region claim that the ongoing military operations have severely weakened, if not destroyed, the LRA, recent attacks in Congo suggest the rebels retain some co-ordination, equipment and the ability kill on a large-scale. Estimates of the numbers of fighters left range from 100 to over 400.

Over four days of brutality in mid-December more than 321 people were killed and 250 abducted, Human Rights Watch says. 100 people were killed in January, according to the UN, and reports of more massacres in February are still being investigated.

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