At least 41 people, mostly students, were massacred at Lhubiriha Secondary School in Mpondwe, western Uganda. The attack was carried out on Friday night by militants from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who also abducted six people before fleeing back to the Democratic Republic of Congo where they are primarily active. The attack, which involved guns and knives, and the burning of dormitories, is the deadliest in Uganda in over a decade. While police and army officials blame the ADF, many of whom are in the DR Congo’s strife-torn east, the Islamic State group has called the group its local offshoot.
Sylvester Mapozi, the town council mayor, said 39 students were killed at the school, and two more – a male and female – in the nearby community. Many of the deceased were burned beyond recognition and some students are still unaccounted for. According to a police report, the school was discovered burning with dead bodies when police and military units arrived at around 11 pm on Friday, with items missing from the school’s food store. The school is only 1.2 miles from the border of the DR Congo.
Major General Dick Olum has stated that intelligence suggests the ADF has been in the area for at least two days before the attack, and an investigation would be needed to establish what went wrong. The attackers seemed to have detailed information about the school because, as Olum said, “they knew where the boys and girls’ dormitories resided,” resulting in the locking of the boys’ dormitory and subsequent burning. He has called for more firepower and planes to help rescue the abducted and locate the rebel hideouts for military action.
The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has spoken out on Twitter regarding the attack, offering condolences: “Our condolences to the families of the children who died or were injured after the attack on their school dormitory by terrorists last night. The injured children are receiving treatment, and the perpetrators of this crime will be defeated.”
This is not ADF’s first attack on a school in Uganda. In June 1998, 80 students were burnt to death in their dormitories during an ADF attack on Kichwamba Technical Institute near the DR Congo border, with over 100 students abducted.