KAMPALA: Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday ordered more troops to western Uganda where attackers from a group with links to the militant Islamic State (IS) group killed at least 37 secondary school students.
Members of the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed the students late on Friday at Lhubirira Secondary School in Mpondwe, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Military and police said the attackers had also abducted six students and fled towards the Virunga National Park across the border.
Museveni said more soldiers had joined the pursuit in the area, which includes Rwenzori Mountain, from where the ADF launched their insurgency against Museveni in the 1990s.
“We are now sending more troops into the area south of Rwenzori Mountain,” he said in a statement.
“Their action, the desperate, cowardly, terrorist action, therefore, will not save them. We are bringing new forces to the Uganda side as we continue the hunting on the Congo side.”
On Saturday, privately owned NTV Uganda television said the death toll stood at 41, while the state-run New Vision newspaper said it was 42. New Vision said 39 of the dead were students, and some were killed when the attackers set off a bomb as they fled.
The attack drew widespread international condemnation including from the Pope Francis, the United Nations, the African Union and East African’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Ugandans were shocked by the attack.
“I pray for the young student victims of the brutal attack against a school in western Uganda,” the pope said during his weekly Angelus prayer at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican City.
“Parents across the country, please do not panic, our children are safe, and they will remain safe. They are evil people and they are trying to harm our children, but they will not manage,” Janet Museveni, the First Lady and Education Minister, said late on Saturday.
Museveni said the government would also investigate if there were any lapses that enabled the attack to happen.
“Was an alarm sounded and by whom? How did the nearby security people respond? Why didn’t our people on the Congo side have intelligence on this splinter group etc.?” Museveni said.
Families desperate for news waited all night in the cold outside a mortuary in nearby Bwera.
Those able to identify loved ones embraced and wept as they took away the bodies in coffins.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2023