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U.S. troops help hunt Africa rebels

Barack Obama said he has dispatched 100 US troops to central Africa to support a year-long fight against a militant group accused of a catalogue of atrocities.

But the US president said the the troops have been sent to advise, not to engage in combat, unless forced to defend themselves.

In a letter to the US Congress, Mr Obama said the troops would act as advisers in a long-running battle against the Lord's Resistance Army, considered one of Africa's most ruthless rebel groups, and help to hunt down its notorious leader, Joseph Kony.

The first of the troops arrived in Uganda on Wednesday, the White House said, and others will be sent to South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While the size of the US footprint is small, Mr Obama's announcement represents a highly unusual intervention for the United States.

Although some American troops are based in Djibouti and small groups of soldiers have been deployed to Somalia, the US has traditionally been reluctant to commit forces to help African nations put down uprisings.

It demonstrates the Obama administration's escalating attention to and fears about security risks in Africa, including terror networks, piracy and unstable nations. The move was intended to show some engagement to lessen the impact of one of the worst protracted wars in Africa.

Mr Obama said his decision to send troops was in keeping with the national security interests of the United States.

Pentagon officials said the bulk of the deployment would be of special operations troops, who will provide security and combat training to African units.

The Lord's Resistance Army's 24-year campaign of rebellion, rape and murder represents one of the world's worst human rights crises today. "This case is somewhat exceptional. There are few more clear-cut cases of evil in the world today than the Lord's Resistance Army," said Richard Downie, an Africa expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

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