The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) has opened up on the attack by suspected rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) at Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Secondary School in Kasese which left nearly 40 students killed and several others abducted on Friday night.
In a press statement on Saturday morning, defence spokesperson Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye said the gruesome attack was carried out by the suspected ADF rebels, about five in number who raided the school at around 11:30 pm on Friday night.
“Last night 16 June 2023 at around 11:30 pm, a group of ADF terrorists attacked Mpondwe/Lubiriha Secondary School (privately owned) in Nyabugando Parish Karambi Sub County in Kasese District. Shortly our forces received this information and moved in quickly. Intelligence revealed that this attack was by suspected ADF rebels about 05 in number,” Brig Kulayigye said in a statement.
Kulayigye added that on learning of the attack, 5 Mountain Battalion Commander together with other sister forces advanced to the scene and upon arrival, the school was found burning with dead bodies of students lying in the compound with the school food store broken into, posho and beans taken.
The army spokesperson confirmed 37 fatalities from the incident and said 8 casualties had been rescued, all conveyed at Bwera Hospital in Kasese, while six students were abducted by the rebels and crossed into the eastern DRC with them.
“Unfortunately, 37 bodies have been discovered and conveyed to Bwera Hospital mortuary and 08 causalities/survivors taken to Bwera government hospital, 03 rescued alive and 06 were abducted,” he said.
However, contradicting reports from several media outlets had said that the death toll in the attack on Mpondwe Lhubirira Secondary School in Kasese district had risen to 42 after 17 charred bodies of male students were discovered in the boys’ burnt dormitory.
Reports further suggest that during the attack, the boys refused to open their dormitory which compelled the ADF to set the dormitory ablaze. In the process, 17 male students were burnt to death.
Brig Kuliayigye affirmed that the UPDF’s top commanders; Chief of Defence Forces – Gen Wilson Mbadi, the Commander of Land Forces – Lt Gen Kayanja Muhanga, and Gen Dick Olumu, the commander of mountain division and Operation Shujaa in DR Congo had already camped in the area to have the rebels brought to book.
“UPDF embarked on pursuing the perpetrators to rescue the abducted students whom they used to carry the looted food towards Virunga National Park. UPDF remains committed to its mandate to protect the people of Uganda and their property,” Brig Kulayigye said.
Kasese Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Lt Joe Walusimbi said there were 62 students in the dormitories at the time of the attack.
The ADF, despite losing hundreds of combatants in the joint Operation Shujaa, appears to be very active in the eastern DRC near the Ugandan border.