The Ugandan authorities said on Sunday 41 tribal insurgents and 14 police officers were killed in clashes in the west of the country, and the tribal king of the area near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo was detained.
The police, who announced the death toll on Twitter, said the clashes took place in the Rwenzori region, where there has been unrest since a disputed presidential election in February that was won by veteran leader Yoweri Museveni.
Police said the people it simply described as “attackers” were fighting to create an independent state in the area.
Army spokesman Paddy Ankunda told Reuters that Charles Wesley Mumbere, the king of the Rwenzururu Kingdom who supports the opposition, was detained for questioning.
There are several tribal kings in Uganda who have a largely ceremonial role with some modest regional powers.
The opposition has accused the government of stoking tensions in the region, where the opposition has strong support, with a clamp down on political activity.
“The attackers used IED (improvised explosive devices as) grenades, guns, and spears to attack security personnel,” the police said, adding a police vehicle at a security post was burned during the fighting.
“So far we have arrested 15 key ring leaders,” police said.
According to the Daily Monitor, a leading local daily, a group of security personnel on patrol in Kasese, the biggest town in the region, was attacked by Mumbere’s royal guards on Saturday, sparking a firefight that led to clashes.
It quoted a security official in its report.
Ankunda did not offer details about the clashes, and the police spokesman could not be reached for comment.