Ugandan border town prepares to bury victims of rebel massacre that killed 42, mostly students

Kampala – A Ugandan border town with bereaved families prepares to bury the victims of a brutal attack on a school by suspected militant rebels on Sunday as security forces ramp up patrols along the border with volatile eastern Congo. 42 people, mostly students, died.

Mpondowe Rubiriha Mayor Selevest Mapose said one of the eight people injured in the attack on Friday night, which killed 38 students, died overnight.

“Most of the relatives came to take the bodies to the morgue,” he said.

Armed with guns and machetes, they attacked the private Lubiriha secondary school, about two kilometers (just over a mile) from the Congolese border, leaving some students indistinguishably burned and others. were also shot or cut to death. . Ugandan authorities believe at least six students were abducted after being brought back to Congo as porters.

The victims included 38 students, a school guard and three civilians.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack, saying: “To address cross-border unrest between (the Congo) and Uganda and to restore lasting peace in the region, we need to strengthen regional partnerships, among other things. The importance of collective efforts through

On Sunday, the atmosphere in Mpondowe Rubiriha was tense but calm, with Ugandan security forces roaming outside the school and in nearby streets protected by a police cordon.

Ugandan security forces have not provided a detailed account of how rebels operating in eastern Congo were able to carry out the attack. The group, known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), rarely claims responsibility for attacks. Established ties with the extremist group Islamic State.

The ADF has been accused of carrying out a number of attacks in recent years targeting civilians in remote areas of eastern Congo. That includes an incident in March in which 19 people were killed.

The ADF has long opposed the rule of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a US security ally who has been in power in the East African country since 1986.

The group was founded in the early 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims who claim to have been alienated from President Museveni’s policies. At the time, rebels carried out deadly attacks not only in the capital but also in Ugandan villages, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a town not far from Friday’s raid. was

The attack followed the same strategy of violence against students. Ugandan officials said the attackers targeted two dormitories and used extreme force when the boys resisted.

“The terrorist group threw bombs and Molotov cocktails because they were unable to enter the country,” said Janet Museveni, Minister of Education and First Lady of Uganda. “I mean, these kids got burned.”

Schools are seen as soft targets, with students being recruited into rebel ranks or used to bring food and supplies to rebels, making such attacks a coveted media coverage for extremists. As a result, students are sometimes attacked.

The attack appears to have taken Ugandan authorities by surprise, with first responders arriving after the attackers left.

Mapose said some villagers temporarily left the Mpondowe Rubiriha community for fear of further attacks.

The border is porous and several sidewalks are not monitored by authorities. Much of eastern Congo is lawless, and the limited powers of the central government in the capital, Kinshasa, allow organizations like the ADF to operate.

However, ADF attacks on the Ugandan side of the border are rare, partly because of the Ugandan army’s mountain brigade stationed in the area. Ugandan army to be deployed in eastern Congo from 2021 It was part of a military operation to hunt down ADF militants and prevent them from attacking civilians across the border.

The deployment of Ugandan forces inside Congo follows attacks in November 2021 in which suicide bombers believed to be ADF personnel detonated explosives in two locations in the capital, Kampala, killing at least four civilians. One attack took place near the Houses of Parliament. The second is near a crowded police station.

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