Fierce fighting between security forces and a separatist militia believed to be loyal to a tribal king in Uganda’s Rwenzori western region left at least 54 people dead, authorities said Sunday.
Police spokesman Felix Kaweesi said 13 police officers and 41 militants had died Saturday in clashes in the town of Kasese, when the militia attacked patrolling security forces. Four police officials and four soldiers were wounded, Kaweesi said.
The killings are an escalation of a long-running conflict between Ugandan security forces and rebels linked to a tribal king, Charles Wesley Mumbere, a critic of the country’s long-time president.
Gunfire rang out outside the king’s palace Sunday as Ugandan security forces tried to break into the premises and disarm his guards, after the rebels had killed four police officers.
Mumbere is king of Uganda’s Bakonzo people, and some of his supporters have been calling for secession from Uganda, according to authorities. He has denied any role in the attacks on police posts.
The western district of Uganda, where Mumbere is based, is a hotbed of opposition to President Yoweri Museveni, who lost there in the last presidential polls.