I covered myself in blood to hide

Julius Isingoma

Julius Isingoma

Student Julius Isingoma has told the BBC how he miraculously survived an overnight assault by suspected Islamist rebels in his school dormitory in western Uganda.

“I smeared the blood of my deceased colleagues on my mouth, my ears and on my head to make the attackers think I was dead,” he said when we met him at General Hospital. of Bwera in Kasese district.

Around 40 people – including 37 students – died in the attack on the secondary school in the small town of Mpondwe on Friday night.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni blamed the attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), adding that they “may have been working with other criminals because I heard the school had quarrels”. He did not give details, but vowed to hunt down the militants in their hideouts across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ADF has yet to comment.

It was formed in the 1990s and took up arms against Mr Museveni, alleging persecution of the minority Muslim population.

Its leader reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in 2016.

But it was not until April 2019 that IS first acknowledged its activity in the region, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on army positions near the border with Uganda.

This statement marked the announcement of the “Central African Province” (Iscap) of the IS.

Six students are believed to have been abducted as the militants retreated into DR Congo.

Julius was one of six people who managed to survive the onslaught which lasted several hours.

He did not identify the attackers, but said they were gunmen who launched their attack around 10 p.m. local time.

They arrived at the boys’ dormitory but the students had locked it after realizing they were in danger.

“When they couldn’t open the door, they threw a bomb inside the dormitory and then used hammers and axes to break down the door,” he said.

Julius stood behind many students who had formed a shield near the door and were shot when the militants entered the dormitory.

There were screams as the students were shot, hacked or shot.

He quickly climbed to the top of a bunk bed, removed some of the wooden planks from the ceiling, and jumped inside to hide.

From there, he watched helplessly as his colleagues were brutally murdered by the attackers, who then set fire to the mattresses and left.

“I was overwhelmed by the smoke and fell back into the dormitory with a thud,” he said.

The activists heard the noise and came back.

It was then that Julius knew he had to come out of the attack alive.

“I lay down next to the bloody bodies of my friends and thought very quickly. Then I smeared a lot of blood in my ears, my mouth and on my head and when the militants arrived they checked my hand for a pulse and walked away,” Julius said.

Godwin Mumbere

Student Godwin Mumbere managed to run away from school

Another survivor, Godwin Mumbere, was in the same dorm as Julius.

The 18-year-old recalled the assailants going to the girls’ dormitory, dragging them outside and killing them with machetes.

They then arrived at the boys’ dormitory, broke down the door and started attacking the students.

The bed Godwin was hiding under was knocked over and his friends on it fell to the ground and were killed.

“The attackers saw me but thought I was dead,” he told the BBC.

But they came out and came back to the dorm to make sure everyone was dead.

“That’s when they shot me in the hand and burned down the dormitory,” he said.

Godwin was brought back to reality by the screams of another student who said they were dying.

He ran out of the dorm, climbed the school gate, and ran to a nearby hardware store through a cocoa plantation. He arrived at a lodge and hid under a vehicle until rescued.

Clarice Bwambare, the senior administrator at Bwera General Hospital, told the BBC they started receiving the bodies of students and residents around 01:00 – around three hours after the attack began on Friday night.

He noted that of the 20 bodies they received, 18 were of students.

Five survivors are currently recovering in hospital. One of them is a girl who is in critical condition in the intensive care unit. A surgeon said she could not be moved due to a serious head injury after being hit with a hammer by the rebels.

Mr Bwambare said only one body was not claimed from the morgue.

On Sunday, grief-stricken families buried 21 of the students, according to Ugandan newspaper New Vision.

Lying in his hospital bed, Julius regretted not being able to attend their funeral. He said he wanted to be a soldier who could fight back and save the lives of his friends and colleagues.



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