KASESE SCHOOL ATTACK: What we know so far on Mpondwe school raid by ADF rebels

The killings come amid an unprecedented offensive by Congolese and Ugandan troops against the grouping the Islamic State group calls its affiliate.

Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School in Lhubiriha Town Council, Kasese District in Western Uganda (Photo/Courtesy)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Gunmen suspected to be of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on Friday night attacked Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School in Kasese, western Uganda, killing 25 students and abducting several others.

The incident which is reported to have happened at 11 pm on the night of Friday, June 16, is believed to have left three survivors out of 50 students believed to be enrolled at the school.

This indicates that over 20 students were abducted by the rebels and crossed into the neighbouring DRC with them. The fighters also burned down a school vehicle before leaving the scene of crime.

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Police in an update on Saturday confirmed the attack on the Mpondwe school and raised fears that the number of victims could be higher as their operation was still ongoing.

“Last night, we registered a terrorist attack by the ADF rebels, on Lubiriha secondary school, in Mpondwe, that is located about 2kms, from the DRC border. A dormitory was burnt and a food store was 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. A hot pursuit by the UPDF and the police is ongoing, towards Virunga national park,” said Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson.

Did Security sleep on the job?

Reports from Kasese indicate that the rebels took time to break into the school’s store and forced abducted students to carry food items, including posho and beans, across the border to eastern Congo.

As the dusk was unmasking in the wee hours of Saturday morning, security in Kasese arrived at the school and found the 25 lifeless bodies scattered in the school compound, with the three survivors nursing injuries.

However, it is not understood why it took UPDF more than two hours to access the school, yet, the army barracks at Kamukumbi is about 1.5 kilometres away from the school.

Additionally, DailyExpress also understands that the Police Division in Mpondwe-Lhubiriha is about 2 kilometres away and the Nyabugando Police Post is 800 meters away from the attacked school.

Even the heavily fortified UPDF Brigade Headquarters at Katholhu is located about 6 kilometres away from Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School but it is reported that it took security forces more than 2 hours to respond to the attack.

What Police Said

Enanga on Saturday said the attacked school is “located about 2 kilometres from the DRC border” and that the rebels fled in the direction of Virunga National Park.

This means the rebels walked 2 kilometres deep into Ugandan territory, carried out an attack which included burning a school vehicle and looting stores, and crossed back to the DRC without being detected or fought by Uganda’s security organs.

To this effect, DailyExpress could not reach the UPDF spokesperson Brig. Felix Kulayigye for a comment at the time of filing this report.

Timothy Kule, a resident of Kasese, said “Security needs to improve its relations with locals to be able to obtain good intelligence to avert or swiftly respond to these attacks.”

The killings come amid an unprecedented offensive by Congolese and Ugandan troops against the grouping the Islamic State group calls its affiliate.

Previous attacks

This is not the first time gunmen have attacked schools in the area. On June 8, 1998, ADF rebels attacked Kichwamba Technical Institute where they killed 80 students, left others injured and several abducted.

In November 2021, Ugandan and Congolese troops launched a joint offensive against the ADF but more than a year later, the operation’s effectiveness remains unclear.
Early this week, the security in the area warned residents of terror threats in the area.

Security agencies in the Rwenzori Sub-region were said to be high alert early this week after the DR Congo-based ADF rebel group renewed attacks close to the Ugandan border.

Last Sunday night, ADF rebels attacked Domena Village in Kasindi, which is a few kilometres from Uganda’s border town of Mpondwe, killing several people.

At least 133 Congolese, including women and children, were forced to flee into Uganda and camped at Kabuyiri Catholic Church.

However, most of them later returned to their country after the situation normalised, while others stayed with their relatives on the Ugandan side of the border.

The rebels are said to have resumed attacks in areas which had been pacified by UPDF and DRC forces under a joint military operation code-named Operation Shujaa.

It remains to be seen if the ADF’s motivation for Friday night’s incursion was to show they are still active and to carry out reprisal attacks on civilians.

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President Museveni recently said the ADF had been weakened by relentless attacks by the UPDF and pushed far away from the porous Uganda-DRC border.

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