Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorists attacked Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School in western Uganda on Friday night, killing at least 41 people and abducting six others.
Most of the victims were teenage students. Military spokesperson Felix Kulayigye said some of them were shot and macheted to death while others were left to burn as the assailants set fire to the dormitories. Some of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The death toll may be higher as the authorities were still putting out the fire as of Saturday morning. Sixty-two people are believed to have been in the school at the time of the attack.
“A dormitory was burnt and a food store looted,” Uganda police spokesperson Fred Enanga said yesterday.
“So far, 25 bodies have been recovered from the school and transferred to Bwera Hospital. Also recovered are eight victims, who remain in critical condition at Bwera Hospital. A hot pursuit by the UPDF and the police is ongoing, towards Virunga National Park.”
The six abducted students were taken to carry foodstuff looted from the school store.
One of the survivors, 16-year-old Mumbere Edgar Dido, said the students scampered for safety and hid under their beds when the invaders started shooting from outside. “They continued to shoot through the windows, then set fire to our room while we were inside, before going to the girls’ dormitory,” he recalled.
Clay Biromunane, who lost three cousins to the attack, told CNN the local morgue was crowded.
“I knew my relatives were at school, so when I heard about the incident, very early in the morning we rushed to the hospital and we found their bodies there, and the mortuary was very crowded.”
Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School is located in Bwera, a community that is just 2 km from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Several ADF rebels, who launched the attack, were said to have arrived in the town two days earlier and moved around, with one person surveilling the school area.
“The attackers came and locked the boys’ door,” army commander Major General Dick Olum told reporters. “The boys really tried to fight back, but they were overpowered. The attackers had lit mattresses. In the girls’ dorm, they found their door open, hence killing them and cutting them.”
The ADF is a rebel group that mostly operates from the North Kivu region in D.R. Congo. It is considered a terrorist organisation by Uganda and the U.S. government. In 2019, a major faction led by Musa Baluku pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). Though the group was originally based in western Uganda, formed in 1995 to rebel against the Yoweri Museveni government, it has launched most of its attacks against military and civilian targets in the D.R.C. since 2013.
The Lhubiriha school incident is the deadliest terror attack Uganda has suffered since Al-Shabab’s suicide bombings of July 2010 that killed 74 people.
The brutality of the attack is reminiscent of the 2014 Buni Yadi massacre in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram terrorists had similarly killed dozens of schoolkids, shooting them and setting fire to their dormitories.
“They set fire to everything. Even the firewood that was just outside, the trees, everything. They set fire to everything,” one witness told HumAngle last year.
“What we saw when we got there was a litter of dead bodies. On the floor, on the walls, everywhere. One would find up to five or six dead bodies outside one window. As they tried to jump out, they were being shot.”
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