Dozens of rebels and police officers have been killed in fighting in western Uganda. The conflict broke out near the palace of a tribal king who opposes Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Ugandan government officials said Monday that the death toll had climbed to 62 people, including 41 rebels and 14 police officers, in weekend clashes in the Rwenzori region of Uganda.
The violence stems from a long-running conflict between Ugandan security forces and tribal rebels loyal to Rwenzururu tribal king Charles Wesley Mumbere. The deaths occurred after rebels refused to give Mumbere up to Ugandan officials and royal guards attempted to intervene.
"They had refused to give up. The people fighting are loyal guards of the Rwenzururu king. They are fighting to secede but we are battling them," said government spokesman Shaban Bantariza.
Hotbed of opposition
Mumbere, a critic of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, was taken away by government forces amid the violence. A spokesman for Ugandan troops in the area said Mumbere was "rescued" from his Kasese palace and not under arrest, but police have disputed this account, saying the king was in detention and was in questioning.
Mumbere is the king of Uganda's Bakonzo people, some of whom have called for secession from Uganda. Kasese is 340 kilometers (211 miles) west of the capital, Kampala, near the Rwenzori mountains that border the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The region is a hotbed of opposition to Museveni. There are frequent land disputes in the area, with locals blaming the government of sponsoring land grabs. Local kingdoms have also fought for control of the region.
kbd/cmk (AP, dpa)