Africa Defense Forum
ADF is a professional military magazine published quarterly by U.S. Africa Command to provide an international forum for African security professionals. ADF covers topics such as counter terrorism strategies, security and defense operations, transnational crime, and all other issues affecting peace, stability, and good governance on the African continent.

Uganda Thwarts Allied Democratic Forces Church Bombings


Ugandan authorities on October 15 prevented the Allied Democratic Forces from bombing two churches in central Kibbi, about 50 kilometers west of Kampala, the national capital.

The bombs were linked to public address systems and sent to pastors disguised as gifts. However, members of the public were suspicious of the devices and alerted police, according to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who blamed the plot on the terrorist organization.

The Allied Democratic Forces is linked to the Islamic State group (IS) and frequently targets Christians in its propaganda.

“The evil plan was foiled,” Museveni said on X, formerly Twitter. He also urged people “not to accept gifts from strangers.”

Earlier that day, Ugandan air strikes against four Allied Democratic Forces positions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) killed “quite a number” of terrorists, said Museveni, who added that the rebels “are re-entering Uganda and trying to commit some random terrorist acts.”

The Allied Democratic Forces originally was based in western Uganda in the 1990s when it took up arms against Museveni. After its defeat by the Ugandan Army in 2001, it moved to North Kivu province in eastern DRC.

In the DRC, it has killed 5,000 people since 2013, according to a recent study conducted by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. The group is largely funded through illegal mining and logging operations, and kidnappings for ransom. Analysts say it also receives funding from the IS.

The group has increasingly targeted Uganda in recent months.

In mid-June, it ambushed the Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School, near Uganda’s border with the DRC. The late-night attack killed 42 people, including 37 students, who were hacked with machetes, shot or burned to death. Six other students were abducted.

On October 13, Allied Democratic Forces gunmen attacked a civilian lorry carrying onions near Bwera, less than 3 kilometers from the DRC border. At least one person was killed.

Four days later, the Allied Democratic Forces claimed responsibility for an attack on a tourist safari vehicle that killed a recently married couple from South Africa and the United Kingdom and their local guide inside Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.

On social media, Museveni condemned the “cowardly act” and vowed that the terrorists will “pay with their own wretched lives.” He added that Ugandan authorities would not allow further “mistakes” that allowed the group to attack inside the wildlife park.

“There were a few gaps in the handling of these remnants” of the Allied Democratic Forces, Museveni wrote. “UWA [Uganda Wildlife Authority] was guarding tourists once they were in the park. However, apparently, the tourists were arriving and departing individually. It is this gap that they used.”

That attack brought to four the number of Allied Democratic Forces attacks in Uganda since December, according to a report by the Long War Journal, published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies research institute in Washington.

The recent attacks suggest the group is trying reestablish a sustained presence in western Uganda for the first time since 2007, Caleb Weiss and Ryan O’Farrell, senior analysts at the Bridgeway Foundation, wrote for the Long War Journal. The foundation is an organization dedicated to ending and preventing mass atrocities.

The cross-border attacks are similar to tactics used by the group during its insurgency in the early 2000s.

“Given past tactical trends, the incursion will likely continue to target civilians, and may ultimately seek to reestablish a sustained guerrilla presence in Uganda’s west — all in the name of the Islamic State,” Weiss and O’Farrell wrote.

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