(Update: raises death toll)
Nairobi, Jun 17 (EFE).- At least 37 pupils were killed overnight in an attack on a school in western Uganda by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group with alleged ties to the Islamic State (IS), the army said Saturday.
“Unfortunately, 37 bodies have been discovered and taken to the hospital morgue in (the town of) Bwera,” Army spokesman Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye said in a statement.
Asked over the phone by Efe if all the victims were students, the spokesman replied with a terse “yes”, without giving further explanations.
The “terrorist attack” occurred at the school of Lhubiriha, in the town of Mpondwe, about two kilometers from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), police said earlier in a statement on Twitter.
“A dormitory was burnt and a food store looted. So far 25 bodies have been recovered from the school and transferred to Bwera Hospital. Also recovered are 8 victims, who remain in critical condition at Bwera Hospital,” police said.
It added that together with the Ugandan army they began a “hot pursuit” of the attackers towards the Congolese Virunga National Park.
Ugandan state newspaper New Vision put the death toll at 42 without specifying its sources and, according to that count, 39 students, two residents and a security guard were killed.
“The rebels asked for Muslims among the students, but there were none,” student Mumbere Bright, who survived the attack in the dormitory by hiding among the bodies of other slain students, told the newspaper.
“The rebels said they don’t kill fellow believers. They killed every student in sight using pangas, axes and sharp objects,” Bright added.
The ADF are a rebel group of Ugandan origin, but currently have their bases in provinces of North Kivu and neighboring Ituri in the DRC, near the border with Uganda.
Although experts from the United Nations Security Council found no evidence of IS direct support for the ADF, the United States has identified them since March 2021 as “a terrorist organization” affiliated with the Islamist group.
According to the Kivu Security Tracker, ADF is responsible for at least 3,850 deaths from 730 attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2017.
The Ugandan authorities have accused the group of organizing attacks within its territory, including two suicide bombings in Kampala in November 2021 and killings of top officials by armed bikers.
The DRC and Ugandan armies began a joint military operation against the ADF on Congolese soil in November 2021, but rebel attacks have continued.
Since 1998, eastern DRC has been mired in a conflict fueled by rebel militias and the Army, despite the presence of the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO), with about 16,000 uniformed personnel on the ground. EFE