Julius Isingoma, a student at a secondary school in western Uganda, has shared the harrowing details of his miraculous survival during a night-time assault on his school dormitory.
Suspected Islamist rebels targeted the school in the town of Mpondwe, resulting in the deaths of over 40 people, mostly students. The incident occurred on Friday night and has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Julius, who is currently receiving treatment at Bwera General Hospital in Kasese district, recounted his desperate measures to fool the attackers and stay alive.
“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,” he disclosed during an interview with the BBC.
The attackers, armed with guns, launched the assault around 10:00 PM local time. They approached the boys’ dormitory, which had been locked by the students after sensing the danger. Failing to gain entry, the assailants resorted to throwing a bomb into the dormitory and then used hammers and axes to force their way in, according to Julius.
Tragically, many students near the door were shot dead as the militants entered. Julius managed to escape their immediate attention by climbing to the top of a bunk bed and removing some wooden planks from the ceiling to hide.
From this vantage point, he witnessed the brutal murder of his fellow students by the assailants. Disturbingly, the attackers then set fire to the mattresses before leaving the scene.
Overwhelmed by smoke and falling back into the dormitory, Julius inadvertently attracted the attention of the militants, who returned to investigate. Realizing that his survival depended on outsmarting them, he resorted to a desperate ploy.
“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,” he explained.
When the militants returned, they checked Julius’s hand for a pulse and, believing him to be dead, left him untouched. His strategy had worked. Julius, along with five others, emerged as the sole survivors of the horrifying attack, which lasted several hours.
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Reports indicate that six students were abducted by the militants as they retreated across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The country is now grappling with grief and mourning as families and communities come to terms with the devastating loss of young lives.