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U.S. special forces help in hunt for warlord Kony |
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OBO, Central African Republic -- Deep in the jungle, this small, remote CentralAfrican village is farther from the coast than any point on the continent. It's also where threeinternational armies have zeroed in on Joseph Kony, one of the world's most wanted warlords.Obo was the first place in the Central African Republic that Kony's Lord's Resistance Armyattacked in 2008; today, it's one of four forward operating locations where U.S. special forceshave paired up with local troops and Ugandan soldiers to seek out Kony, who is believed likelyto be hiding out in the rugged terrain northwest of the town. For seven years he has beenwanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity after hisforces cut a wide and bloody swath across several central African nations with rapes,abductions and killings.Part of the LRA's success in eluding government forces has been its ability to slip back and forthover the porous borders of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. But since latelast year, U.S. forces have been providing intelligence, looking at patterns of movement, andsetting up better communications to link the countries' forces together so that they can bettertrack the guerrilla force.Sent by President Barack Obama at the end of 2011, the 100 U.S. soldiers are split up about 15to 30 per base, bringing in American technology and experience to assist local forces.Exact details on specific improvements that the American forces have brought to the table,however, are classified, to avoid giving Kony the ability to take countermeasures."We don't necessarily go and track into the bush but what we do is we incorporate ourexperiences with the partner nation's experiences to come up with the right solution to go outand hopefully solve this LRA problem," said Gregory, a 29-year-old captain from Texas, whowould only give his first name in accordance with security guidelines.The U.S. troops also receive reports from local hunters and others that they help analyzetogether with surveillance information."It's very easy to blame everything on the LRA but there are other players in the region -- thereare poachers, there are bandits, and we have to sift that to filter what is LRA," he said.Central African Republic soldiers largely conduct security operations in and around the town,while Ugandan soldiers, who have been in the country since 2010, conduct longer-range patrolslooking for Kony and his men.Since January, they have killed seven LRA fighters in the area and captured one, while rescuing15 people abducted by the group including five children, said their local commander, Col.Joseph Balikuddembe.There has been no contact with the LRA since March, however, according to Ugandan Armyspokesman Col. Felix Kulayigye, who said the LRA now is in survival mode. The LRA is thoughtto today number only around 150 to 300 die-hard fighters.