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African soldiers hunting for Kony believe rebel leader may be dead

An Internet campaign that's gone viral aims to capture notorious rebel leader Joseph Kony, but Ugandan foot soldiers who have spent years searching for the man are starting to ask a question their top commanders prefer to ignore: Is it possible he is dead?

Ugandan army officials say the Lord's Resistance Army leader is alive and hiding somewhere within the Central African Republic. Rank-and-file soldiers, however, say intelligence on Kony is so limited that if he dies, or is already dead, his foes might never know and could wind up chasing a ghost through this vast Central Africa jungle.

In interviews last week with an Associated Press reporter who trekked with them in the jungle, soldiers in one of many Kony-hunting squads said their task in the Central African Republic could no longer be described as a manhunt. The soldiers, who requested anonymity for fear of punishment, said for years there has been no LRA presence in the areas they patrol.

The soldiers are growing increasingly disillusioned, complaining of boredom and having to carry around heavy guns they never expect to use.

Kony, an enigmatic rebel leader who has lived in the bush for the last 26 years, last month became the subject of intense international focus after U.S. advocacy group Invisible Children made a popular online video purporting to make him famous. He has been silent since 2008, when the Ugandan army raided his forested base in northeastern Congo.

Ugandan officials say Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, fled to the Central African Republic hours before the aerial attack, but LRA attacks have been frequently reported in Congo recently. Ugandan troops left the Congo last year after Congolese authorities asked them to go.