25 killed in militant attack on school in western Uganda: Police

Map of Uganda locating the capital KampalaAFP file photo

Twenty-five people including children have died in an overnight "terrorist attack" on a school in western Uganda by the Islamic State-aligned Allied Democratic Forces militia, the national police spokesman said Saturday.

Fred Enanga said the ADF, which is based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, attacked a secondary school in Mpondwe late Friday where "a dormitory was burnt and food store looted".

"So far 25 bodies have been recovered from the school and transferred to Bwera Hospital", he said, referring to a nearby town close to the DR Congo border.

Boys and girls were among the dead, he added.

"Also recovered are eight victims, who remain in critical condition at Bwera hospital," he said.

The school is less than two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the border.

District commissioner Joe Walusimbi told AFP that a number of students were still unaccounted for.

Enanga said the army and police units were in "hot pursuit" of the attackers who fled in the direction of Virunga National Park over the border in DR Congo.

A vast expanse on the border with Uganda and Rwanda, Virunga is the oldest nature reserve in Africa and is renowned worldwide as a sanctuary for rare species, including mountain gorillas.

Militias -- of which dozens are active in eastern DR Congo -- also the use the park as a hideout.

Originally insurgents in Uganda, the ADF gained a foothold in eastern DR Congo in the 1990s and have since been accused of killing thousands of civilians.

Since 2019, some ADF attacks in eastern DR Congo have been claimed by the Islamic State group, which describes the fighters as a local offshoot, the Islamic State Central Africa Province.

It is not the first attack on a school in Uganda attributed to the militia.

In June 1998, 80 students were burnt to death in their dormitories in an ADF attack on Kichwamba Technical Institute near the border of DR Congo. More than 100 students were abducted.

Uganda and DR Congo launched a joint offensive in 2021 to drive the ADF out of their Congolese strongholds, but the measures have so far failed to end the group's attacks.

In March this year, the United States announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the capture of the ADF's leader.