Parents of students missing after an attack on a school in western Uganda are flocking to the local police station to submit DNA samples that could identify their children among the 42 bodies that have been recovered.
One of Uganda’s biggest massacres in recent decades occurred on Friday night at Lhubirira Secondary School. Assailants set a dormitory full of boys alight, then attacked a dormitory full of girls, hacking victims to death with machetes and knives.
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Six students were also abducted by the attackers, who the authorities say were fighters from the ISIL (ISIS)-linked Allied Democratic Forces group based across the border in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Regional police commander Tai Ramadhan said many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition, forcing investigators to use DNA samples from relatives to try to identify them.
Simon Kule, who had come to Bwera Police Station to give a DNA sample, was still looking for his son, Philmon Mumbere.
“So they should help us to know – either these people are still there or they are in the mortuary so that we should prepare in time.”
Solomon Mulekya was looking for his daughter, Trephine Kaghuo.
“We are not happy, because we have lost our children,” he said. “I’m there in suspense, whether the rebels, they have taken her or we don’t know they killed her along the way.”
Authorities said on Monday that 20 suspected “collaborators” of the attackers, including the school’s head teacher, had been detained for questioning.
Pope Francis offered a prayer on Sunday for “the young student victims of the brutal attack” that has shocked Uganda and drawn condemnation from the international community.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “an appalling act”, while the United States, a close ally of Uganda, and the African Union also condemned the bloodshed.