Extremist group increases attacks in western Uganda

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Uganda claimed a significant victory over the Islamic State group (IS) in November when it captured a senior commander known as “Njovu” during a raid in which six members of his group were killed.

The fighters belonged to the Allied Democratic Forces, which is based in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The group has increasingly attacked western Uganda, where the group originated.

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

The Allied Democratic Forces is largely funded through illegal mining and logging operations and kidnappings for ransom. The group often targets Christians in its propaganda, and analysts say it also receives considerable funding from the IS.

Uganda’s government blamed Njovu’s group for the October murder of a newlywed couple from the United Kingdom and South Africa, and their Ugandan guide, while they were on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park near the DRC border. IS claimed responsibility for the attack the day after the killings, saying it had killed “three Christian tourists” with machine guns, Al-Jazeera reported.

The attack was one of four IS attacks in Uganda since December 2022.

“Given past tactical trends, the incursion [into Uganda] will likely continue to target civilians, and may ultimately seek to reestablish a sustained guerrilla presence in Uganda’s west — all in the name of the Islamic State,” Bridgeway Foundations researchers Caleb Weiss and Ryan O’Farrell wrote in the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal.

In the past three years, all attacks in Uganda have been attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces. The country had gone more than a decade without a terror attack on its home soil until a series of attacks launched by the terror group in 2021.

Days before the attack in Queen Elizabeth National Park, IS fighters believed to be from Njovu’s group attacked a civilian truck carrying vegetables to a local market in western Uganda, less than 3 kilometers from the DRC border. At least one person was killed.

The group in mid-June slaughtered 42 people, including 37 students, who were hacked with machetes, shot or burned to death at the Lhubirira Secondary School in Mpondwe, near the DRC border. Six students were abducted, and a 43rd victim died days later of injuries sustained in the attack.

Student Godwin Mumbere survived.

Mumbere, 18, said the attack began about 10:30 p.m. He recalled the terrorists demanding that students open their dormitory doors.

“All my friends in the dormitory refused,” Mumbere told Al-Jazeera.

Mumbere hid under his bed as attackers fired bullets through the windows and the locked door. Mumbere was struck in the hand.

Within days, police arrested 20 suspected Allied Democratic Forces members in connection with the attack.

Ugandan authorities in mid-October foiled attacks on two churches in central Kebbi.

Investigators found that two bombs were linked to public address systems and sent to pastors disguised as gifts. However, members of the public were suspicious of the devices and alerted police, according to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who blamed the plot on the terrorist organization.

Such operations are close to tactics the group employs in the DRC — where the Allied Democratic Forces is blamed for killing 12 people and wounding at least 50 when a bomb detonated during a church service in January — as well as a cross-border insurgency it waged in the early 2000s.

Written by Africa Defense Forum and republished with permission. The original article can be found here.