Militants kill 42, abduct six in brazen Ugandan school attack
Ugandan authorities recovered the bodies of 42 people, including 38 students, who were burned, shot or hacked to death by attackers at a secondary school.
At least six people were abducted by the rebels, who fled across the porous border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the grisly raid.
Authorities blamed the massacre at Lhubiriha Secondary School in the border town of Mpondwe on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group with ties to ISIL (ISIS), which has been launching attacks for years from bases in volatile eastern DRC.
It was the deadliest attack in Uganda since twin bombings in Kampala in 2010 killed 76 in an attack claimed by the Somalia-based al-Shabab group.
Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Mayor Selevest Mapoze said on Saturday while some of the students suffered fatal burns when the rebels set fire to a dormitory, others were shot or hacked to death with machetes.
Mumbere Edgar Dido, 16, said the attackers arrived at his dormitory carrying machetes and guns and opened fire from outside, sending everyone diving under their beds.
“They continued to shoot through the windows, then set fire to our room while we were inside, before going to the girls’ dormitory,” he said.
‘Many unanswered questions’
Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesman Felix Kulayigye said the six kidnapped were taken towards Virunga National Park, a vast expanse that straddles the border. “UPDF embarked on pursuing the perpetrators to rescue the abducted students.”
National police spokesman Fred Enanga said the attack on the privately owned school occurred in the district of Kasese, about two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the DRC border. Daniel Bwambale, an expert on government affairs in Kampala, told Al Jazeera the attack was preventable.
“There is no reason why this attack should have taken place. There are air assets available, unmanned aerial vehicles, artillery and most definitely enough personnel to pursue the ADF,” he said, blaming the authorities for failing to act on the intelligence.
Florence Kabugho, a legislator for Kasese, told reporters there were “very many unanswered questions” given the heavy military presence so close to the border. “Where was this security when these killers came to Uganda?” she said.
It was not ADF’s first attack on a school in Uganda. In June 1998, 80 students were burned to death in their dormitories in an ADF attack on Kichwamba Technical Institute near the DRC border. More than 100 students were abducted. Joe Walusimbi, an official representing Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in Kasese, said, “Some bodies were burnt beyond recognition.” Major-General Dick Olum, the army’s commander for western Uganda, said the attackers stayed in the town two days before the attack, marking their target.