At least 41 killed in rebel attack on Ugandan school near Congo border

An unknown number of people were abducted by the rebels, who fled across the porous border into Congo after the raid on Friday night.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo| AP)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo| AP)

KAMPALA: Ugandan authorities recovered the bodies of 41 people, including 38 students, following an attack by suspected rebels on secondary school near the border with Congo, the local mayor said Saturday.

The victims included the students, one guard and two members of the local community who were killed outside the school, Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Mayor Selevest Mapoze told The Associated Press. An unknown number of people were abducted by the rebels, who fled across the porous border into Congo after the raid on Friday night.

Mapoze said that while some of the students suffered fatal burns when the rebels set fire to a dormitory, others were shot or hacked with machetes.

Police said that rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, who have been launching attacks for years from their bases in volatile eastern Congo, carried out the raid on Lhubiriha Secondary School in the border town of Mpondwe.

The school, co-ed and privately owned, is located in the Ugandan district of Kasese, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Congo border.

“A dormitory was set on fire and a food store looted. So far 25 bodies have been recovered from the school and transferred to Bwera Hospital,” police said in a statement, adding that eight others were in critical condition.

Police said Ugandan troops tracked the attackers into Congo’s Virunga National Park. The military confirmed in a statement that Ugandan troops inside Congo "are pursuing the enemy to rescue those abducted.”

Joe Walusimbi, an official representing Uganda’s president in Kasese, told The Associated Press over the phone that some of the victims “were burnt beyond recognition.”

Winnie Kiiza, an influential political leader and a former lawmaker from the region, condemned the “cowardly attack” on Twitter. She said “attacks on schools are unacceptable and are a grave violation of children’s rights," adding that schools should always be "a safe place for every student.”

The ADF has been accused of launching many attacks in recent years, targeting civilians, in remote parts of eastern Congo.

The ADF has long opposed the rule of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a U.S. security ally who has been in power since 1986.

The group was established in the early 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims, who said they had been sidelined by Museveni’s policies. At the time, the rebels staged deadly attacks in Ugandan villages as well as in the capital, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a town not from the scene of the latest attack.

A Ugandan military assault later forced the ADF into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are able to operate because the central government has limited control there.

The group has since established ties with the Islamic State group.

In March , at least 19 people were killed in Congo by suspected ADF extremists.

Ugandan authorities for years have vowed to track down ADF militants even outside Ugandan territory. In 2021, Uganda launched joint air and artillery strikes in Congo against the group.

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