Grieving families gathered at a morgue in western Uganda on Sunday to seek news of loved ones after dozens of students were killed in attacks by rebel groups and many others went missing.
At least 41 people, 38 of them students, were massacred late Friday at a secondary school in the town of Mpondwe, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), officials said.
The attack on Lubiriha Secondary School shocked Uganda and drew global condemnation.
The military and police blamed the attack on the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) armed group. The attackers kidnapped six people as they fled.
The military said it was hunting for the attackers and would release the abductees.
Many victims were burnt beyond recognition as attackers set fire to a locked dormitory, thwarting efforts to identify the dead and find the whereabouts of the missing.
At the morgue in the small town of Bwera, near where the attack took place, families wailed as the bodies of their loved ones were placed in coffins and taken away for burial.
But for many others, there was no news of missing loved ones. Many of the charred bodies were sent to the city of Fort Portal for DNA testing.
It was the deadliest attack in Uganda since 2010, when Somalia-based al-Shabab groups carried out two bombings in Kampala that killed 76 people.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it an “appalling act”, while Uganda’s close allies, the United States and the African Union, also condemned the bloodshed.
President Yoweri Museveni said on Saturday that the army would go after “these evil people and they will pay for what they have done”.
But some have questioned how the attackers managed to evade detection in a border area with a heavy military presence.
Major General Dick Olum told AFP that intelligence indicated the ADF was present in the area at least two days before the attack, so an investigation was needed to determine what went wrong.
Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo launched a joint offensive in 2021 to drive ADF out of Congolese strongholds, but those efforts have mostly failed.
In June 1998, the ADF attacked the Kichwamba Technical College in Uganda, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, burning 80 students to death in their dormitories.