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Witnesses recount raid on Zombo UPDF detach

Residents of Zombo District Flee teir homes following an attack on UPDF detach in Oduk village. Courtesy Photo

Zombo, Uganda  | THE INDEPENDENT |  Nearly six days after a group of men armed with machetes, bows and arrows raided a Uganda People’s Defense Forces [UPDF] detach in Oduk Village, Zombo District in West Nile Sub-region, the attack remains a mystery.

The attack, seemingly well planned by the assailants resulted in the killing of five soldiers while nine huts were razed down and three AK47 assault riffle’s looted from the army detach by the attackers.

But some of the residents of Oduk village neighbouring the UPDF Detach have for the first time opened up on the events that unfolded on March 6.

In an interview with Uganda Radio Network on Wednesday, Ismail Mustafa, the LCI Chairperson of Oduk Village who resides about 200 meters from the detach said that he had just returned home at 11:58 p.m. when he saw strange people advancing towards the army detach.

He says he saw three different groups of about 30 men, each armed with machetes, bows and arrows crossing a pedestrian path and advancing towards the detach. They were all wearing black facemasks. He says out of suspicion, he informed the detach intelligence officer but it was too late. Within a moment, the place was covered in a barrage of gunfire.

“…they crossed a shortcut leaving out the main road towards the detach. They were about 30 men in each group, the first and second group passed but I decided to come out of my house when the third group were coming, I informed the officer in the detach, but those men wore masks,”

Mustafa who says he had a close working relationship with the officer in charge of the detach notes that on the night of the attack, only five soldiers were on guard while three had gone for patrol. He says that a few soldiers that night made it possible for the attackers who were more than 100 to easily penetrate the detach.

“…they started firing gunshots at the detach and immediately I saw fire engulfing the detach. I was about 200 meters away. The soldiers also fired back but not long after, the gunshots went silent perhaps a signal that the attackers had killed them. Moments later, the officers on patrol arrived and chased the attackers towards our homes,” 

Mustafa says he remained indoors from midnight until 3 a.m. when one of the soldiers who was shot in the right hand and bleeding profusely ran to his house requesting to be taken for medical treatment. He adds that at dawn, he went to the detach only to find news that three soldiers whom he worked with closely including the Detach’s Intelligence officer had been killed.

Remijo Alithum, 66, another resident of Oduk village whose hut is just 50 meters away from the detach says he was woken up by the deafening sound of gunshots at midnight on Friday. Alithum says that after minutes of trying to figure out what could be happening outside, he decided to overcome his fear to witness the event from the confines of his bedroom.

He notes that he hid in his bathroom from where he was able to watch the detach burn in huge flames while gunshots kept on raining for almost an hour.

Alithum says that although normalcy has resumed in the area, they are still living in fear that an attack of a similar nature may happen.

When Uganda Radio Network visited Zombo Town Council on Wednesday, a few people were continuing to carry on with their businesses while several kiosks and shops located distances from the scene of the attack remains closed.

The Zombo Town Council Chairperson Joseph Ogen says that locals fled from 32 villages in the area to the neighbouring sub-counties of Nyapea, Atyak, Zeu and Paidha for safety, following the attack.

He also notes that the attack hurt the education of school-going children, farmers and civil servants who for the past four days had been shunning school, farmlands and offices.

Since Friday last week, the Army commanded by Col Jackson Kayanja, the Brigade Commander for West Nile Sub-region intensified operations to hunt and wipe out the attackers. 

At least 23 people suspected to have participated in the attack have been killed by the army while 27 were arrested and currently in detention at Gulu Fourth Infantry Division barracks in Gulu District.

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