LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony

An unspecified number of primary school pupils who had travelled from neighbouring villages to sit for their primary leaving national examinations have been abducted by gunmen believed to be fighters led by Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

According to a report by UN-sponsored Okapi radio, about 50 gunmen launched a raid over the weekend about 500km (310 miles) north of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Besides the pupils, some of the 100 people believed to have been kidnapped in the attack were traders and nurses who were carrying out the vaccination campaign against meningitis.

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The administrator of Bondo said troops were pursing them into Adama forest, believed to be the rebels’ hiding place.

This one of so many LRA abductions so far this year, they have kidnapped more than 200 people alone in the Central African Republic, a quarter of them children, human rights groups says.

The LRA has abducted nearly twice as many people in CAR so far in 2016 than they did in the whole of 2015, the LRA Crisis Tracker, a joint project of the Invisible Children advocacy group and The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative said, adding that it was too early to judge whether those taken would be released after serving as porters for looted goods or be forcibly integrated.

The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1987, the year after current President Yoweri Museveni seized power, but remnants of the rebel force and its elusive leader have been driven out of the country and operate abroad.

Key leaders have been captured or defected, but the movement has not been crushed.