Victims of Uganda school attack buried as hunt for rebels continues

NAIROBI — Families across western Uganda’s Kasese district early this week held funerals for students among the 42 people killed in an apparent attack by militants on the Lhubiriha Secondary School late Friday.

At least 37 students died and six were abducted in the raid in Mpondwe, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda’s government said that the attack was carried out by five members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia based in Congo, with links to the Islamic State. Authorities found the school smoldering a looted, with bodies strewn about, Defense Ministry spokesman Felix Kulayigye said in the aftermath.

At least 37 killed in attack on school in Uganda, officials say

Funerals began Sunday as bodies were released into the custody of family members. By Monday, officials at Bwera General, the district’s main hospital, had conducted 25 post-mortems, Uganda Police Force through its spokesperson Fred Enanga said in a statement.

Some families whose children were burned beyond recognition are waiting for DNA results to identify their remains.

Masereka Loti, 50, lives less than a mile from the school and heard the raid in progress. “We knew the enemy had attacked, so in the morning, we went straight to the mortuary,” he said.

There he found the bodies of one of his brother, Mbusa Zephanius, 37, who Loti said was the school’s gatekeeper on duty the night of the attack. They also found the body of his brother’s son Elton Masereka, 17, a student at the school. Another son, Brian Musoka, also 17, was missing.

Loti said his brother “had dreams of educating his children,” and was working his job as a security guard to put them through school.

Zephanius and Elton were buried side by side on Sunday at their family home.

“The children made us happy, they would welcome visitors, they liked to dress well and look good,” Loti said of his nephews. “Their father was such a good man. It is a great loss for us.”

On Monday, Uganda’s police put out a partial list of names of the dead on their website, the youngest a 12-year-old female student, the oldest a 70-year-old man. Elton’s was among the names.

“We ask the government to help us, as my brother who died still has three other children going to school,” Loti said.

The search continues for the attackers and the students they abducted. The militants fled with what they stole toward Congo’s Virunga National Park, Kulayigye said over the weekend.

The raid was the deadliest attack in Uganda since the July twin bombings in 2010 that killed 76 people in Kampala, the capital. In that attack, al-Shabab insurgents targeted an outdoor World Cup screening.

The ADF, which the government said had carried out the school attack, was founded in 1995 by rebel forces that sought to topple the government of Uganda’s leader, President Yoweri Museveni. The extremist group, which forged connections to and received funding from the Islamic State, according to defectors and researchers, has been under recent pressure, as a result of a Ugandan and Congolese campaign to eradicate its strongholds in Congo.

“We have no excuse in not hunting down the ADF terrorists into extinction,” Museveni said after the school attack.

Burials are set to continue through the week.

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