Relatives mourn outside a mortuary where bodies of victims of school attack were brought, in Mpondwe, Uganda, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKE DRAY

Gov’t to cover burial costs of victims of deadly school attack in Uganda

International Desk, Jun 18 (EFE).- The Ugandan government will donate 5 million shillings (about $1,360) to the families of the victims of an attack on a school in western Uganda, the ministry of education said Sunday.

At least 41 people, including 37 students, were killed in Friday’s attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group with alleged ties to the Islamic State (IS).

Relatives carry a coffin containing a body of a victim of school attack, from a mortuary in Mpondwe, Uganda, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKE DRAY

According to the government-owned New Vision newspaper, the 5 million shillings are intended to cover the burial costs for each victim, state minister for higher education John Muyingo said.

Muyingo, who was visiting the area on behalf of education minister and first lady Janet Museveni, said she was sending her “heartfelt condolences” to the victims’ relatives, New Vision reported.

An army spokesperson confirmed to Efe by phone on Saturday that 37 pupils were killed in the attack on Friday, 20 of whom were murdered with machetes, while the rest perished after their dormitory was set on fire.

An officer stands near blood-stained steps within the Lhubirira Secondary School following an attack, in Mpondwe, Uganda, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKE DRAY

Lieutenant General Dick Olum, commander of the Ugandan forces fighting alongside the DRC Army in Congolese territory against the ADF, said the attackers also killed a security guard and three other people in the community.

“We suspect that they kidnapped about six students and may have taken members of the community on the way,” added the lieutenant general.

The “terrorist attack” occurred at the school of Lhubiriha, in the town of Mpondwe, about two kilometers from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), police said Saturday, adding that together with the Ugandan army they were in “hot pursuit” of the attackers towards the Congolese Virunga National Park.

A general view of the Lhubirira Secondary School following an attack, in Mpondwe, Uganda, 18 June 2023. EFE/EPA/LUKE DRAY

In a statement, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres condemned the “appaling act” and called for the perpetrators to be “brought to justice.”

The ADF are a rebel group of Ugandan origin, but currently have their bases in provinces of North Kivu and neighboring Ituri in the DRC, near the border with Uganda.

Although experts from the United Nations Security Council found no evidence of IS direct support for the ADF, the United States has identified them since March 2021 as “a terrorist organization” affiliated with the Islamist group.

According to the Kivu Security Tracker, ADF is responsible for at least 3,850 deaths from 730 attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2017.

The Ugandan authorities have accused the group of organizing attacks within its territory, including two suicide bombings in Kampala in November 2021 and killings of top officials by armed bikers.

The DRC and Ugandan armies began a joint military operation against the ADF on Congolese soil in November 2021, but rebel attacks have continued.

Since 1998, eastern DRC has been mired in a conflict fueled by rebel militias and the Army, despite the presence of the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO), with about 16,000 uniformed personnel on the ground. EFE