In the bloodiest attack on the nation in more than ten years, Ugandan forces are looking for rebels who are alleged to have killed at least 41 civilians, predominantly students.
In Mpondwe town, close to the DRC border, authorities have attributed Friday’s attack to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel organisation that has sworn allegiance to ISIL (ISIS).
The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, pledged to chase the attackers “into extinction” in his first words following the assault.
“Their action—the desperate, cowardly, terrorist action—will not save them,” Museveni declared in a statement, promising to send more troops to the Ugandan side of the border.
On Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for “the young student victims of the brutal attack” that horrified Uganda and drew criticism from throughout the world.
While the United States, a close ally of Uganda, and the African Union also denounced the bloodshed, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres termed it “an appalling act”.
Here is what we now know about the biggest incident to occur in Uganda since the twin bombings that the Somalian armed group al-Shabab carried out in the capital city of Kampala in 2010 that left 76 people dead.
What took place?
Less than 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the border, the dormitory of the Lhubiriha Secondary School was burned down late on Friday, killing the majority of the victims.
Students claimed to Al Jazeera that they were dozing off when suspected ADF troops broke down the school’s doors. Some of them were burned alive by gasoline bombs, while others were hacked to death. Some pupils managed to stay alive by slipping behind the bodies of others.
Bright Mumbere, a student, stated, “We were getting ready for bed when we heard shouting, and we saw men wearing dark green clothes with guns, axes, and machetes.”
“They wanted us to open the dormitory door and then start shooting,” he continued.
Janet Museveni, the first lady of Uganda and minister of education, said that 20 female students were machete-hacked to death and that 17 male students were burned alive in their dormitories.
Six students were held captive by an unidentified number of attackers who escaped towards Virunga National Park, a sizable area that straddles the border, according to police. The attackers are thought to be members of the ADF armed group, which is located in the eastern DRC.
According to Felix Kulayigye, a spokesman for the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Troops (UPDF), armed troops were hunting down the criminals to free the kidnapped pupils.
It has been questioned how the assailants avoided capture in a border zone with a significant military presence.
Major General Dick Olum stated that an investigation would be required to determine what went wrong because intelligence indicated the ADF’s presence in the area at least two days before the strike.
households in mourning
Many of the victims were so badly burned that it was impossible to identify them, making it difficult to locate the missing and identify the dead.
Families watched inconsolably as the bodies of their loved ones were packed in coffins and transported to a cemetery at a mortuary in Bwera, a town close to Mpondwe.
The mayor of Mpondwe-Lhubiriha, Selevest Mapoze, stated that “most of the relatives have come to take their bodies” from the mortuary.
Many others, though, were unaware that their relatives were missing. The city of Fort Portal has received the burned, unidentified bodies for DNA testing.
According to Catherine Soi of Al Jazeera, who was reporting from Nairobi, Kenya, “we know that 20 of the students, all girls, were hacked to death with machetes, and 17 boys were burned as petrol bombs were thrown in their dormitory.”