Originally published in Open Doors.
A devastating attack by Islamic militants on a school in Uganda has left at least 40 children killed and six abducted. Please pray for all who are mourning this atrocity.
A neighbour reports hearing students at Uganda’s Lhubiriha Secondary School singing g
Gospel songs shortly before a horrific attack that left at least 40 people dead, mostly children. The sustained attack was carried out at the predominantly Christian school by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic militant group with links to so-called Islamic State (IS).
Christian students killed and abducted
In the late hours of last Friday evening, at least five ADF militants attacked the school in Mpondwe, less than 2km from the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Open Doors local sources share that at least 42 people, mainly boys from the school, were killed, and others remain critically injured. Several girls were abducted and forced to carry looted food supplies towards Virunga National Park, across the border in DRC.
Local contacts add that most, if not all, of the students at the school are Christians. The children were killed in machete attacks and in arson on a boys’ dormitory.
Addressing concerned locals, Major General Olum said: “We have got information that the rebels spent two nights here before they raided the school. We have sent for choppers [helicopters] to be deployed in our search and the rescue operation for the students who were abducted.”
Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) remains committed to its mandate to protect the people of Uganda and their property, said UPDF spokesperson, Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye. The UPDF, alongside DRC’s national army, have spent almost two years pursuing the ADF in a joint operation.
The woman who lives next to the school, Mary Masika, shared with the BBC that she heard two attackers talking at her gate towards the end of their 90-minute assault – asking if ‘the job was done’. They began shouting “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is most great’), and one of them said: “We have succeeded in destabilising Museveni’s country.” Yoweri Museveni has been Uganda’s president since 1986.
ADF’s increasing violence
Uganda is number 69 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Though persecution worsened slightly in the past year, it is still currently outside of the top 50 countries where following Jesus comes with the most persecution – but would be at number 15, if countries were ranked solely by violent persecution. It is only outside the top 50 because persecution in other areas of life (e.g. from the government) is relatively low.
The school is very close to DRC, number 37 on the World Watch List, where violence against Christians is extremely high and continues to grow. The ADF is responsible for many of these attacks, and has been violently persecuting Christians in DRC for decades.
The ADF was originally formed in 1995 to fight Museveni’s Ugandan government. They’re now mostly active in the North Kivu Province, near the border with Uganda. While ADF’s leader was captured in April 2015, it doesn’t appear to have diminished their strength. “The ADF’s ability to merge with civilian communities allows them to lie low when necessary, and to re-emerge when conditions are more favourable,” said Michael Mutyaba, a Ugandan researcher and political analyst. “This explains why it’s proving resilient.”
“They have gone on a rampage”
For years, ADF’s link with Islamic militants was debated – but the group pledged allegiance to IS in 2019. A UN spokesperson, Babar Baloch, commented that, “Since the beginning of the year , they have gone on a rampage in terms of raiding villages, killing civilians, kidnapping people, leaving people injured behind and the consequences are really, really clear on the desperate population who have to flee, in cases many times from each location to another.”
Open Doors estimates that 300 people have been killed in ADF attacks in North Kivu Province since the beginning of 2023, most of them Christians. This is on top of other attacks outside the province, such as this recent atrocity in Uganda. It is symptomatic of the increasing violence in sub-Saharan Africa – 14 Christians are killed for their faith every day in Nigeria, but many of the countries across this wide region are experiencing escalating violence.
Your prayers are desperately needed for the grieving community in Mpondwe. Please keep lifting them up, as they mourn their loved ones.
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