EU Sanctions Top ADF Commander Linked to School Attack in Uganda

Tanzanian national Ahmad Mahmood Hassan who was sanctioned on Friday by EU. PHOTO | COURTESY

The European Union (EU) has sanctioned Ahmad Mahmood Hassan, a top commander of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in response to his alleged involvement in the recent attack on Mpondwe-Lhubiriha Secondary School in Uganda. The assault resulted in the death of 44 people, mostly students. Uganda attributes the attack to the ADF, a self-proclaimed affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) in the Great Lakes region.

Hassan, a Tanzanian national known by aliases such as Abu Waqas, Jundi, and Muwarabu, has also been accused by the EU of orchestrating a series of raids in the Beni and North Kivu territories of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). By targeting key figures like Hassan, the EU aims to hinder the mobility of ADF’s top leadership and disrupt financial support to the organization.

Brig Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and Defense, stated that while the ADF is already internationally-sanctioned as a terrorist group, focusing on individual leaders like Hassan could further limit their capabilities. The impact of the sanctions may depend on whether Hassan is a significant funder of the organization.

The EU has added Hassan’s particulars to its list of sanctioned entities and individuals under Regulation (EC) No 1183/2005, designating him as a senior leader of the ADF. According to the EU, Hassan holds key responsibilities within the ADF, including commanding a camp, training recruits, producing bombs, managing online outreach, and establishing ties with ISIL (Da’esh).

The ADF, originally a Ugandan rebel group founded in 1989, has been active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after being dislodged by the UPDF from western Uganda. The group is accused of committing serious human rights violations, indiscriminately killing civilians, and carrying out attacks using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in both Uganda and the DRC.

Despite a joint counter-offensive named Operation Shujaa launched by the UPDF and Congolese military to combat the ADF, the group continues to be held responsible for deadly raids in both countries. In June 2023, they carried out the Mpondwe-Lhubiriha SS attack in Kasese District, resulting in the loss of 44 lives, predominantly students.

In response to the attack, President Museveni acknowledged intelligence lapses but asserted that it indicated the group’s weakness rather than a resurgence.

The EU’s sanctions against Hassan are part of its efforts to prevent violence in the DRC and apply restrictive measures on individuals and entities violating the DRC arms embargo.

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