* Kony hunt was suspended after CAR's government was toppled
* Ugandan troops form backbone of AU force hunting Kony
* Two U.S. pressure groups say LRA attacks have declined
By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Uganda has rejoined a hunt for Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) guerrillas in Central African Republic (CAR) after pulling them back earlier this year because of a coup in CAR, officials said on Thursday.
LRA leader Joseph Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), waged a brutal fight against the government in northern Uganda for nearly two decades, before fleeing with his fighters into the jungles of central Africa around 2005.
Uganda provides more than 3,000 of the 5,000 soldiers in an African Union Regional Task Force (RTF), supported by about 100 U.S. Special Forces, that is hunting Kony and his fighters. Most are thought to be hiding in jungles straddling the borders of Central African Republic, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Uganda withdrew its forces from offensive RTF operations after the rebel group Seleka seized power in CAR in April.
Uganda's military had accused the Seleka government of being hostile to foreign troops, but said on Thursday that this assessment had now changed.
"Seleka's (government) has expressed willingness to cooperate with the AU task force," said Paddy Ankunda, Uganda's military spokesman. "Based on that, we have resumed operations."
LRA fighters are notorious for extreme violence, including chopping off limbs as a form of punishment, as well as raping young girls and abducting them to use as sex slaves.
Ankunda said that, since restarting the fight, Uganda had killed eight LRA rebels, captured their weapons and rescued an unspecified number of abductees.
A report released on Wednesday by two U.S.-based pressure groups, Invisible Children and The Resolve, said some LRA fighters had told locals in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that they wanted to abandon their rebellion.
"In nine incidents, LRA members expressed a desire to defect ... sometimes asking civilians for assistance in doing so," the report said.
It added that LRA fighters in Congo were increasingly isolated from their commanders based in CAR.
The number of attacks by the LRA fell to 90 in the first half of 2013 from 194 first six months of 2012, the report said, although the number of civilian deaths rose to 47 from 32. (Editing by James Macharia and Kevin Liffey)