In a statement on Saturday, police authorities said that the Allied Democratic Forces carried out the attack late Friday night on a school in the border town of Mpondwe.
The mayor of the Ugandan border where suspected rebels attacked a school says 41 bodies have been recovered, including 38 students.
Police say the rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, who have been launching attacks for years from their bases in volatile eastern Congo, carried out the raid late Friday on Lhubiriha Secondary School in the border town of Mpondwe.
Mayor Selevest Mapoze says those killed include 38 students, one guard and two members of the local community who were shot outside the school.
The school, co-ed and privately owned, is located in the Ugandan district of Kasese, about 2 kilometres from the Congo border.
A government official and a military spokesman said others were abducted and a dormitory was set on fire.
Police said Ugandan troops tracked the attackers into Congo’s Virunga National Park. The military confirmed in a statement that Ugandan troops inside Congo “are pursuing the enemy to rescue those abducted.”
Joe Walusimbi, an official representing Uganda’s president in Kasese, told The Associated Press over the phone that authorities were trying to verify the number of victims and those abducted.
“Some bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” he said.
Winnie Kiiza, an influential political leader and a former lawmaker from the region, condemned the “cowardly attack” on Twitter. She said “Attacks on schools are unacceptable and are a grave violation of children’s rights,” adding that schools should always be “a safe place for every student.”
The Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, has been accused of launching many attacks in recent years, targeting civilians, in remote parts of eastern Congo.
The ADF has long opposed the rule of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a US security ally who has been in power since 1986.
The group was established in the early 1990s by some Ugandan Muslims, who said they had been sidelined by Museveni’s policies. At the time, the rebels staged deadly attacks in Ugandan villages as well as in the capital, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a town not far from the scene of the latest attack.
A Ugandan military assault later forced the ADF into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are able to operate because the central government has limited control there.
The group has since established ties with the Islamic State group.
In March, at least 19 people were killed in Congo by suspected ADF extremists.
Ugandan authorities for years have vowed to track down ADF militants even outside Ugandan territory. In 2021, Uganda launched joint air and artillery strikes in Congo against the group.