WASHINGTON, Mar 24 – Washington is sending more special forces commandos and tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft to Uganda to help hunt for fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, The Washington Post reported.
At least four CV-22 Ospreys and refuelling aircraft, as well as 150 Air Force special forces personnel and other airmen to fly and maintain the planes will arrive in the African country at mid-week, the Post reported on its website Sunday.
The force began to deploy late Sunday, Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defence for African affairs, told the newspaper.
US forces will remain in a support role helping African Union forces searching for Kony, the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and blamed for a string of atrocities, US officials told the Post.
President Barack Obama ordered some 100 special operations troops deployed to Uganda to help find Kony in October 2011.
US forces are equipped for combat, but are banned from engaging LRA fighters unless in self-defence, according to their rules of engagement.
The LRA is a militant outfit whose doctrine mixes African mysticism with Christian extremism. In recent years it has been forced out of Uganda, and Kony is believed to be hiding with a core of fighters in the remote jungles of Central African Republic, northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, or South Sudan.
Kony and two other LRA leaders were indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court in 2005 on charges of butchering and kidnapping civilians.
Ospreys can take off and land straight up like a helicopter, but also fly like a turboprop airplane. This allows the planes to move more troops faster and farther than a helicopter.
The increased US assistance does not mean that the Obama administration’s criticism of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for enacting draconian anti-gay laws has weakened.
“Ensuring justice and accountability for human rights violators like the LRA” and protecting the rights of gay and transgendered people “are not mutually exclusive,” Grant Harris, a special assistant to Obama and senior African affairs director for the National Security Council, told the Post.