Uganda captures chief of ISIL-linked militia blamed for tourist murders

The ADF chief is arrested in a raid that kills six members of his squad, according to the government.

A Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) armored personnel carrier is seen outside the premises of an attack in Mpondwe, Uganda, on June 17, 2023 at the Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School. The death toll from an attack on a school in western Uganda by militants linked to the Islamic State group has risen to 37, the country's army spokesman said Saturday. (Photo by AFP)
An armoured personnel carrier is seen outside a school in Mpondwe that was attacked in June [File: AFP]

Uganda says it has captured the leader of an ISIL (ISIS)-linked militia unit it blames for killing two foreign tourists and their local guide in a national park last month.

The militia chief known as “Njovu” was detained on Tuesday during a raid in which six members of his squad were killed, the government said on Thursday.

The militiamen belonged to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an ISIL-affiliated group based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The group has allegedly killed scores of civilians this year.

Uganda’s government says the ADF is also responsible for the October 17 murder of a honeymooning couple – David Barlow from Britain and Celia Barlow from South Africa – along with their Ugandan guide Eric Ayai. The trio were killed while on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park near the DRC border.

ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack the day after the killings, saying it had killed “three Christian tourists” with machine guns.

Uganda had promised to track down the killers.

“This was a successful joint military-intelligence-led operation, and the whole squad that had been sent by the ADF to cause mayhem, kill tourists, burn schools, hospitals, was eliminated,” Ugandan military spokesman Deo Akiiki told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Thursday.

“The only survivor is the commander whom we captured,” he said, adding that he would be put on trial.

Akiiki said the militia chief was found with possessions of the slain tourists and their Ugandan guide’s ID card.

Allegiance to ISIL

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has long pressed security forces to “wipe out” the ADF, which is vehemently against his administration.

The ADF began as a rebel coalition opposing the Ugandan government in the early 1990s. After being defeated by the army, it retreated into the DRC and began engaging in the illicit trade of timber, gold and farm products.

It pledged loyalty to ISIL four years ago and is considered a “terrorist organisation” by the Ugandan government.

In June, ADF fighters killed 42 people, including 37 students, at a high school in western Uganda near the DRC border, Ugandan authorities said, in what was the country’s deadliest attack in more than a decade.

The group was also blamed for a machete attack in the eastern town of Oicha on Monday, which killed 26 people.

Uganda said it has foiled several other planned ADF attacks this year, including a plot to blow up churches in the central town of Kibibi last month.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies