By Spy Uganda
A Ugandan border town yesterday began burying dozens of students killed in an attack on a school by suspected extremist rebels linked to Islamic State that left 42 dead.
Officials say at least 41 people were massacred and half a dozen kidnapped in the worst attack of its kind in Uganda since 2010.
President Yoweri Museveni, in his first statement since the attack, vowed to hunt the militants “into extinction”.
Victims were hacked, shot and burned in the late-night raid on Lhubiriha Secondary School in Mpondwe, which lies less than two kilometres from the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Ugandan authorities have blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and are pursuing the attackers who fled back toward the border with six abductees.
“Their action – the desperate, cowardly, terrorist action – will not save them,” said Museveni.
Fifteen others from the community, including five girls, were still missing, said Eriphaz Muhindi, chairman of Kasese district, which shares a long and forested border with the DRC.
Classified as an Islamic terrorist organisation by the United States Bureau of Counterterrorism, the rebel ADF group established ties with the Islamic State in 2018.
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.
He left with the body of his brother – 35-year-old Mbusa Kirurihandi, a security guard at the school – and his 17-year-old son.
But a third son, aged 15, is missing, and the family is distraught.
“Today we have buried two bodies, the father and his son. But we are still looking for the missing child,” he said.
The government said Sunday it would assist with funeral arrangements and support the injured.
Seventeen victims were burned beyond recognition when the attackers set a dormitory ablaze, frustrating efforts to identify the dead and account for the missing.
Muhindi said they had been taken away for DNA testing, a process that could take some time.
Officials said 37 students were killed – 17 in the torched men’s dormitory, and 20 female students who ran but were hacked to death.
Elias Kule, an 18-year-old survivor, said the boys locked their dormitory door when they heard gunshots and saw armed men entering the school.
“They wore military camouflage. Each had a hammer, a hoe, knives, pangas (machetes) and guns with magazines,” he said.
(Translation) “Massacre at a Uganda school. The attack occurred near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo; The terrorists asked if there were any Muslims and, given the negative answer, they attacked those present with machetes and axes.”
He said the attackers started firing through the windows and doors, hitting at least one student, before lobbing a “bomb” into the dormitory that started a fire.
“I ran out of oxygen, I covered my mouth and nose with a cloth…I got blood and smeared myself on the head and ears to claim I was dead,” he said, waiting until the coast was clear to escape.
Four non-students, including the security guard Kirurihandi, were also killed.
The attack was the deadliest in Uganda since 2010 when 76 people were killed in twin bombings in Kampala by the Somalia-based group Al-Shabaab.