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Uganda: 20 ADF Rebels collaborators arrested in Mpondwe school shooting

Uganda: 20 ADF Rebels collaborators arrested in Mpondwe school shooting
The body of a villager in the attack on Lhubiriha secondary school, in the morgue of Bwera hospital, Uganda, 18 June 2023.   -  
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Hajarah Nalwadda/Copyright 2023 The AP


The Ugandan police announced on Monday the arrest of "20 suspected collaborators" of the ADF rebels following the massacre blamed on jihadists that left at least 42 people dead last weekend in a secondary school, most of them pupils surprised in their dormitories.

"We have arrested 20 suspected collaborators of the ADF", the allied democratic forces, said Fred Enanga, spokesman for the Ugandan police, at a press conference.

Immediately after the massacre, Ugandan army and police officials had incriminated members of the ADF, an Islamist militia that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

At least 42 people, the youngest of whom was 12 years old and the oldest 95, were killed on Friday night in western Uganda. The victims, mostly students, were attacked with machetes, shot dead or burnt alive, according to a new death toll given by the police on Monday.

In a statement, the police said that the head of the school and the headmaster of the Lhubiriha high school in Mpondwe, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were among those arrested.

Six injured people are still in hospital, said Fred Enanga, who described the attack as "barbaric", "inhuman" and a "crime against humanity". The police spokesman also said that the exact number of people abducted was not yet known.

This announcement comes as families are still waiting on Monday for the results of DNA tests to identify the victims of the massacre. Seventeen were burnt beyond recognition when the attackers set fire to a dormitory, complicating the identification and counting of the missing.

"We are not sure whether our children are among those who have been abducted or burnt. We are distressed, perhaps the government will give us an answer soon, and we are praying", Joseph Masika, a tutor of one of the missing students, shared after harrowing visits to morgues and hospitals in the region.

"It's a painful situation that no parent would want to go through, but we remain hopeful that they are alive wherever they are," he added.

According to officials, the 42 dead include 37 students and a security guard.

"Security under control"

President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday described the massacre as a "desperate, cowardly" act and promised to eliminate those responsible for the bloody assault, the worst of its kind in the country for years.

Joe Walusimbi, the district commissioner for Kesese, where the school is located, had earlier said that most of the identified victims had been buried on Sunday, and that burials were continuing Monday.

"We have almost finished burying the dead who have already been identified, and we are waiting for the DNA tests of those students who were burnt beyond recognition", he declared, while asserting, contrary to certain publications on social networks, that the schools in the area were still open. "The security situation is under control," he said.

The school is less than two kilometres from the border with the DRC, where the ADF are active and are accused of having killed thousands of civilians since the 1990s.

Originally Ugandan rebels with most of them Muslims, established in the DRC since the 1990s, they pledged allegiance in 2019 to the EI, which claims some of their actions and presents them as its "central African province" (ISCAP).

Friday's attack on Lhubiriha High School in Mpondwe was the deadliest in Uganda since the double bombing in Kampala in 2010 that killed 76 people in a raid claimed by the Somali-based Islamist Shebab group.

According to the latest report by UN experts, and due to be released this week, the ADF rebels have been receiving financial support from the Islamic State group since at least 2019 and were seeking to expand their area of operations.

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