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Uganda rebels kill nearly 200

Burnt-out camp
Ugandans walk around the charred ruins of the camp after the attack.

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(CNN) -- Rebels engaged in a nearly two-decade long insurgency are reported to have attacked a refugee camp in northern Uganda, killing more than 190 people.

A Roman Catholic priest on the scene said on Sunday the rebels -- most of them "children, baby soldiers" -- had forced people to remain inside their huts which they had then set on fire.

Father Giulio Albanese, the editor of the Roman Catholic Missionary News Service Agency in Rome, said Father Sebhat Ayele had told him the rebels attacked at about 5 p.m. Saturday and burned 500 huts in their three-hour attack.

"(Father Sebhat) said many of the people who died died in their huts, burned by the rebels," Father Giulio told CNN. "What is shocking ... the people were forced to remain inside their huts."

"He saw with his own eyes six or seven children burnt alive with their mothers," he said.

Joe Wacha, a reporter for Kampala's Sunday Monitor, told CNN on Sunday that the rebels overran a local of militia of 36 guards deployed to protect the camp, home to 5,000 people.

"The security situation, it's not a very good kind of situation here," he said.

An early report from Wacha and Sebhat's report indicated 173 people were killed, but Wacha said the number had risen to 193. More than 70 people were seriously hurt and rushed to a hospital in Lira, 25 km away from the Barloonyo camp where the attack took place, Giulio said.

The Lord's Resistance Army has been fighting President Yoweri Museveni since he came to power in 1986. The group is led by Joseph Kony, who claims spiritual powers.

Museveni's government has often dismissed the rebels as a defeated force, and focuses on recruitment and training of local militias to protect the north of his country.

But the insurgency has forced about a million people to flee their homes, and fills its ranks with abducted children and shows few signs of being truly defeated.

Government forces attacked a rebel camp last week, the army said, killing 36 insurgents and rescuing 22 children who had been abducted.

Father Giulio told CNN he met with some of the rebels last year and was shocked "that these rebels are very young, and they kill in a very cruel way."

"They act under the effect of a collective hypnosis ... acts beyond any human imagination, not even an animal would kill in that way," he said. "An animal kills to survive."

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