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Child who survived school massacre recounts gruesome action to hide from gunmen

A student who survived the deadly massacre at a school in Uganda described how he covered himself in blood to hide during an Islamist rebel group’s attack. 

“I smeared the blood of my dead colleagues in my mouth, ears and on my head so that the attackers would think I was dead,” Julius Isingoma told the BBC

“I lay next to the bloodied bodies of my friends and thought very fast. Then I smeared a lot of blood into my ears, mouth and on my head and when the militants came, they checked my hand for a pulse and left,” he added.

Five members of the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist extremist group with ties to ISIS, allegedly carried out the attack over the weekend. The Ugandan military said the group abducted at least six other people and took them over the border into Congo. 

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Uganda security forces drive past a crowd of people following school attack

In this image made from video, security forces drive past a crowd of people gathered outside the Lhubiriha Secondary School following an attack on the school near the border with Congo, in Mpondwe, Uganda, Saturday, June 17, 2023. Ugandan authorities recovered the bodies of dozens of people including students who were burned, shot or hacked to death after suspected rebels attacked the school, the local mayor said Saturday. (AP Photo)

The mayor of Mpondwe said that authorities recovered the bodies of 41 people, including 38 students of the Lhubiriha Secondary School. The three adults include one guard and two members of the local community who were killed outside the school

The attackers had burned, shot or hacked the students to death. 

Isingoma did not identify the attackers but described them as gun-wielding men. He was in the boys’ dormitory during the attack. 

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A sign of the Lhubiriha Secondary School in Mpondwe, Uganda

This image made from video shows the sign of the Lhubiriha Secondary School following an attack on the school near the border with Congo, in Mpondwe, Uganda, Saturday, June 17, 2023. Ugandan authorities recovered the bodies of dozens of people including students who were burned, shot or hacked to death after suspected rebels attacked the school, the local mayor said Saturday, June 17, 2023. (AP Photo)

Students locked the door once they realized the attack had started and their lives were in danger.

“When they couldn’t open the door they hurled a bomb inside the dormitory and then used hammers and axes to break down the door,” he said, adding that he was “overwhelmed by the smoke.” 

The attackers then started shooting, killing many students who ended up shielding Isingoma from the bullets. He climbed to the top of a bunk bed and then into the ceiling where he remained for the rest of the attack. 

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In this image made from video, people make their way towards the Lhubiriha Secondary School following an attack on the school near the border with Congo, in Mpondwe, Uganda, Saturday, June 17, 2023. Ugandan authorities recovered the bodies of dozens of people including students who were burned, shot or hacked to death after suspected rebels attacked the school, the local mayor said Saturday. (AP Photo)

When he came down, he fell to the ground and made a noise, which alerted the militants to the fact someone was still in the room. It was that point Isingoma started to cover himself with blood. 

Another boy, Godwin Mumbere, was in the same dorm as Isingoma and managed to survive by hiding under a bed. When his friends were killed and fell on top of him, the attackers thought he, also, had died. 

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“It was at this point that they shot me in the hand and set the dorm ablaze,” Mumbere said.

Isingoma and Mumbere were two of the eight survivors, including a girl who remains in critical condition and intensive care after suffering a head wound from a hammer. The eight survivors went to hospital for treatment. 

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