A Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) armored personnel carrier is seen outside the premises of an attack in Mpondwe, Uganda on June 17, 2023 at the Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School. The death toll from an attack on a school in western Uganda by militants linked to the Islamic State group has risen to 37, the country’s army spokesman said on Saturday. (AFP Photo) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
– | Afp | fake images
Ugandan authorities have recovered the bodies of 41 people, including 38 students, who were burned, shot or hacked to death after suspected rebels attacked a secondary school near the Congolese border, the local mayor said on Saturday.
At least six people were kidnapped by the rebels, who fled across the porous border into Congo after the attack on Friday night, according to the Ugandan army.
Authorities blamed the massacre at Lhubiriha secondary school in the border town of Mpondwe on the Allied Democratic Forces, a shadowy extremist group with ties to Islamic State, which has been launching attacks for years from bases in the volatile east of the country. Congo.
The victims included the students, a guard and two members of the local community who were killed outside the school, Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Mayor Selevest Mapoze told The Associated Press.
Mapoze said some of the students suffered fatal burns when rebels set fire to a dormitory and others were shot or macheted.
The raid, which occurred around 11:30 p.m., involved about five attackers, the Ugandan military said. Soldiers from a nearby brigade who responded to the attack found the school on fire, “with the dead bodies of the students lying on the grounds,” said military spokesman Brig. Felix Kulayigye said in a statement.
That statement cited 47 bodies, with another eight people injured and treated at a local hospital. Ugandan troops are “pursuing the perpetrators to rescue kidnapped students” who were forced to carry looted food into Congo’s Virunga National Park, he said.
The privately owned, co-educational school is located in Ugandan’s Kasese district, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Congolese border.
Joe Walusimbi, an official representing the Ugandan president in Kasese, told the AP by phone that some of the victims “were burned beyond recognition.”
Winnie Kiiza, an influential political leader and former MP from the region, condemned the “cowardly attack” on Twitter. She said that “attacks on schools are unacceptable and are a serious violation of children’s rights,” adding that schools should always be “a safe place for all students.”
The ADF has been accused of launching many attacks in recent years against civilians in remote parts of eastern Congo. Responsibility for attacks is rarely claimed.
The ADF has long opposed the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a US security ally who has held power in the East African country since 1986.
The group was established in the early 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims, who said they had been marginalized by Museveni’s policies. At the time, rebels carried out deadly attacks on Ugandan villages as well as the capital, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a town that was not the scene of the latest attack.
Subsequently, a Ugandan military assault forced the ADF into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are able to operate because the central government has limited control there.
Since then, the group has established links with the Islamic State group.
In March at least 19 people were killed in Congo by suspected ADF extremists.
The Ugandan authorities have been committed for years to tracking down ADF militants even outside Ugandan territory. In 2021, Uganda launched joint air and artillery strikes in the Congo against the group.