UNITED NATIONS — Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army has abducted more than 600 child soldiers and sex slaves over the past two years even as the hunt for the rebel leader intensifies, the UN said Wednesday.
Efforts to trap Kony have been redoubled since the release of an Internet documentary this year which has been viewed more than 100 million times. But a top UN envoy said Kony is pursuing an ever more desperate rampage in the jungles of Central Africa.
Many children abducted by Kony are being forced to kill relatives, Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special representative on children and conflict, told reporters.
A UN report on the LRA said it had information on 45 children killed and maimed during attacks by Kony’s rebels between July 2009 and February 2012.
At least 591 children, including 268 girls, were seized over the same time in Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, the report added.
“The actual numbers of abductions is much higher, these are just the ones we are aware of,” Coomaraswamy said.
“These children are used in various roles: as combatants, as spies, as guards, as porters, as cooks. They are often forced to kill their family and friends, especially in the villages that they come from.”
Kony, who launched his rebellion in Uganda two decades ago, is now said to have between 300 and 500 troops — about half of these are children or former child soldiers.
The UN envoy said almost all the girls abducted were raped or forcibly married to combatants. Most of the girls had children born of rape and had AIDS and other illnesses when they escaped or were released.
Kony himself has had child brides, according to Coomoraswamy.
But she added that the number of child killings had fallen and that children were being abducted for a shorter period of time which could be signs that the LRA is in “survival mode”.
Uganda is leading a multi-national African force hunting Kony in DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan. One hundred US Special Forces are advising the troops.
Kony, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, is having to move nearly every day as the hunt closes in on him, Abou Moussa, UN special representative for Central Africa, said recently.
Grace Akallo, a Ugandan who was abducted from her school by Kony’s group in 1996 and escaped seven months later, told how she had been trained to use an AK-47 rifle and watched friends forced to kill their parents.
“We were the ones sent in the front to fight. The leaders were behind. We were the ones in the battlefield,” Akallo told a press conference held with Coomoraswamy.
“Your bullets are finished — you shoot your friend in order to get their bullets and continue fighting because you know if you retreat you are going to be killed,” she added.
“They are still abducting children, they are still sexually assaulting women and girls,” she added, calling for greater international efforts to catch Kony.
The “Kony 2012” video by the Invisible Children campaign group this year has brought the hunt to a wider international audience.
UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report
Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.
The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.
A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.
But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.
‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys
In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.
"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.
The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.
"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."
Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors
A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.
The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.
"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.
The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.