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Thousands of refugees flee into Uganda after an ADF attack

More 7,000 Congolese nationals have fled into Uganda in the wake of an attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group on three trading centres in the Democratic of Congo (DRC).

 Esther Anyakun Davinia , Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees

The trading centre which were attacked are Nobil, Kamango and Jiapande, which are a few kilometers away from Busunga border point in Bundibugyo district.

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Uganda’s Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun, said that the ADF reportedly broke into pharmacies and shops as residents fled at their approach. The rebels allegedly made off with food and medicine.

The refugees that crossed into Uganda were registered by Uganda Red Cross with the help of the Office of the Prime Minister and The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the minister.

Only days before this fresh influx of refugees, residents in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts were advised not to accommodate refugees fleeing battle in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These refugees, Ugandan authorities said, would have to be reported to the Refugees’ Reception Center and be registered.

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Maj. Peter Mugisa, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Mountain division spokesperson, said the ADF has been under heavy fire and use the influx of refugees into Uganda as means of disguising themselves as refugees too.

We have asked all the locals to ensure that all the refugees running away from Congo go to the reception center and get registered,” Mugisa said.

Mugisa said ADF attacking Nobili near the border with Uganda could be a decoy attack meant to distract the Congolese and Ugandan army’s focus in Virunga Forest and redirect their attention to the border.

The ADF attack on Nobili which is near Busunga border could be a deception tactic to draw our attention from hunting them in Virunga forest and focus our attention on the borderline and this will give them room to go back to their abandoned camps,” Mugisa said.

That's why it's important to inform our people near the borderline to be extra vigilant by identifying wrong elements in their localities and advise refugees to report to reception centers or to the local authorities. Let no one harbor any Congolese in his or her home before registering with the security personnel,” Mugisa added.

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The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) are currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conducting Operation Shuja, a joint operation of UPDF and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the DRC. The operation was launched on November 30, 2021 after the November 16 2021 bomb blasts in Kampala.

ADF is accused of having masterminded the bomb blasts and has been declared a terrorist group by the US.

At the commence of the year, 15 people were charged with offences ranging from committing acts of terrorism and aiding terrorism, with regard to their alleged role in multiple bombings which occurred in the Ugandan capital city Kampala and other parts of the country in October and November.

These explosions were caused by an improvised explosive device that left at least nine people dead.

In the early hours of Nov. 16, at least six people including three suicide bombers were killed and 33 others injured in multiple bomb blasts in Kampala.

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One of the suicide bombers blew himself up at the entrance of a police station in the centre of Kampala. Two other suicide bombers detonated along a road that leads to Uganda’s parliament.

In what was a chilling prelude to these November bombings, at least two people were killed in two other bombings in October last, one at a restaurant and another on a bus.

Islamic State (IS), which is allied with the ADF, claimed responsibility for the Nov. 16 attack and the October bombings too.

According to a charge sheet revealed by the police, the 15 people were charged, among other charges, with "intentionally and unlawfully, manufactured, delivered, placed and detonated an improvised explosive device ... with intent to cause death or serious bodily injuries," for the purposes of influencing the government or intimidating the public.

The ADF, which started out as a Ugandan rebel group, has been wreaking havoc in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda for several years now.

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On 8 June 1998, the ADF attacked Uganda Technical College Kichwamba in Kabarole district, Uganda, and burnt 80 students alive in three dormitories.

After that blood curdling act, it abducted another 100 students and destroyed college property including laboratories and school vehicles.

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