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  4. At least 41 people, most of them children, were killed at a school in Uganda by suspected rebel fighters. Officials say the attackers initially thought to target a military base but changed their minds.

At least 41 people, most of them children, were killed at a school in Uganda by suspected rebel fighters. Officials say the attackers initially thought to target a military base but changed their minds.

Lloyd Lee,Associated Press   

At least 41 people, most of them children, were killed at a school in Uganda by suspected rebel fighters. Officials say the attackers initially thought to target a military base but changed their minds.
  • At least 41 people were killed in a grisly attack on a school located in a remote part of Uganda.
  • Officials believe the attack was carried out by militants tied to the Allied Democratic Forces.

Suspected rebels attacked a school in a remote area of Uganda near the Congo border, killing at least 41 people in a nighttime raid on Friday before fleeing across the porous frontier, authorities said. Thirty-eight students in their dormitories were among the victims.

A local mayor told The Associated Press that some students were burned beyond recognition, and others were shot or hacked to death after militants armed with guns and machetes attacked the school in the frontier district of Kasese.

In addition to the 38 students, one guard and two residents of the local community in Mpondwe-Lhubiriha town were killed in the attack, said Mayor Selevest Mapoze. A Ugandan military statement said the rebels abducted six students, taken as porters of food looted from the school's store.

The school, co-ed and privately owned, is just over a mile from the Congo border.

Authorities blame the massacre at Lhubiriha Secondary School on the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF. This shadowy extremist group has launched attacks from bases in volatile eastern Congo for years.

On Sunday, Maj. Gen. Dick Olum, a military commander in western Uganda, said that officials believe the ADF had initially planned to attack a military base but later changed plans to attack the boarding school, according to The Wall Street Journal. It's unclear why the suspected attackers changed their minds.

According to the Journal, Ugandan officials stated that their military operations against the ADF could have motivated the attackers to focus inside Uganda.

"Whenever our forces ramp up pressure against the ADF in Congo, they attack soft targets back at home to lure us into withdrawing," Olum said, per the Journal. "We know their tricks and we can't fall for that."

Villagers in the Congolese provinces of Ituri and North Kivu have been the victims of the group's alleged attacks in recent years.

But attacks on the Ugandan side of the border are rare, thanks in part to the presence of an alpine brigade of Ugandan troops in the region.

The attack has sent shockwaves in this normally peaceful East African country whose long-time leader cites security as a strength of his government. It is also a blow to the country's armed forces, who, since 2021, have deployed in parts of eastern Congo under a mission specifically to hunt down the militants accused of attacking a school.

Speaking to reporters near the massacre scene, Olum said that the rebels spent two nights in Kasese, a town in western Uganda, before carrying out their attack. He gave no further details.

"A typical ADF signature," Olum said, "because this is pressure. They are under huge pressure, and that's what they have to do to show the world that they are still there, and to show the world that they can still do havoc."

The school raid, around 11:30 p.m., involved about five attackers, according to the Ugandan military. Soldiers from a nearby brigade who responded to the attack found the school on fire, "with dead bodies of students lying in the compound," military spokesman Brig. Felix Kulayigye said in a statement.

Winnie Kiiza, an influential political leader and a former lawmaker from the region, condemned the "cowardly attack" on Twitter. She said, "attacks on schools are unacceptable and are a grave violation of children's rights," adding that schools should always be "a safe place for every student."

The ADF has been accused of launching many attacks in recent years targeting civilians in remote parts of eastern Congo. It rarely claims responsibility for attacks.

The ADF has long opposed the rule of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a US security ally who has held power in this East African country since 1986.

The group was established in the early 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims, who said Museveni's policies had sidelined them. At the time, the rebels staged deadly attacks in Ugandan villages and the capital, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a town near the latest attack.

A Ugandan military assault forced the ADF into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups can operate because the central government has limited control. The group has since established ties with the Islamic State group.

In March, at least 19 people were killed in Congo by suspected ADF extremists.

Ugandan authorities for years have vowed to track down ADF militants outside Ugandan territory. In 2021 Uganda launched joint air and artillery strikes in Congo against the group.


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