KAMPALA, Uganda — Government troops and villagers have killed 490 followers of a young rebel priestess who march into battle stripped to the waist and trusting in a supposedly magic ointment to protect them from enemy bullets.
A Defense Ministry statement, carried by Radio Uganda, said the army killed 280 rebels from the Holy Spirit Movement led by Alice Lakwena in a major battle in southeastern Uganda on Friday and in follow-up operations over the weekend. Local people reportedly killed 210 guerrillas.
The usually reliable Roman Catholic newspaper Munno said villagers burned 12 rebels alive and clubbed others to death.
Kampala press reports said Lakwena broke through an army attempt to encircle the remnants of her force, which had been up to 4,000 strong, taking with her a field gun hauled by donkeys and a heavily armed bodyguard.
The movement's fighters, all drawn from the Acholi tribe of northern Uganda, believe Lakwena is a living saint and a powerful sorceress and go into battle poorly armed. They fight with their trousers rolled up to the knees.