By Charles Birungi
The leader of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) ‘Sheikh’ Musa Baluku narrowly escaped death during a blistering UPDF raid on his camps in Eastern DRC on Friday, 22 December that also left dozens of the group’s fighters dead and scores of others injured, highly placed military sources have exclusively revealed to this website.
The sustained attack by the military’s air force and long range artillery apparently caught the ADF fighters completely by surprise, including their leader who was in ‘Camp Whisper’ at the time, in what has been hailed as one of the military’s most lethal surgical strikes in recent times.
According to the sources that preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the operation, Baluku who was addressing his followers at the time of the attack managed to escape albeit with serious injuries. He is now suspected to be being carried by followers in areas of North Kivu Province looking for medical help, alongside many other injured ADF fighters.
The news of the ADF boss’s narrow escape at the very onset of the military’s latest offensive on the terrorist group will have encouraged the military operation’s planners and dealt a severe blow to the morale of the armed group.
In a military statement yesterday, the UPDF Spokesman Brig Richard Karemire confirmed that surviving ADF fighters were in areas of North Kivu under pursuit by the DRC military FARDC. He further revealed that the UPDF was maintaining active defensive operations along the borderline in the districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko to deter any of the terrorists from sneaking into the country, warning that the army was on high alert to repulse and pursue any enemy attacks on Ugandan territory.
The ADF was widely blamed for the deadly December 7 attack on a UN forces position at Semuliki Bridge on the Mbau-Kamango road (in Eringeti sector) that left 15 Tanzanian troops killed and 53 injured. Brig. Karemire said this was an indictment on ADF activities and was a wake-up call not only for Uganda and DRC but also for the international community. He added that “the population in the affected areas, the region and international partners should be mobilized to stop the terrorist activities by the group once and for all.”
The Kampala Post recently exclusively revealed that the ADF, a long time Ugandan Islamist terrorist organization with bases in Eastern DRC, has transitioned into a regional-cum- international jihadist movement similar to Somalia’s Al-Shabaab and consequently adopted a new name – Madinat Twahid wal Muhadiin (MTM), loosely translated as the ‘Holy Monotheistic City of Medina.
“ADF is no longer the one that we used to know, but is now a fully fledged jihadist organization like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, complete with foreign recruits from within the region,” revealed the military source to this website on condition of anonymity.
Since October 5 2017, the ADF/MTM has carried out numerous attacks on DRC military positions, the UN peace keeping force (MONUSCO) and civilian targets. In one such deadly assault, the ADF, after attacking a UN Tanzanian base, ambushed civilians on the Mbau – Kamango road and killed 26 civilians, looting their goods and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Rival militia groups control parts of eastern Congo, long after the official end of the 1998-2003 war.
Significance of Name Change
Since its founding leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested in early 2015, the ADF is now led by one ‘Sheikh’ Musa Baluku Lumu, with Hood Lukwago serving as the group’s army commander in charge of field operations. With dozens of camps spread across Eringeti in North Kivu, the group’s top leadership live in the biggest of them all (called Camp Whisper) which is also host to their biggest mosque. The name ‘Whisper’ presumably refers to the harsh concealment measures enforced at the camp with people forced to communicate in whispers alone. The ADF refer to the entire area in which their camps are found as Medina. Medina is the second holiest site in the Islamic religion, exceeded only by Mecca. According to sources with inside knowledge on ADF/MTM operations, the change in name is partly to attract funding and support from other jihadist movements around the world.
“Medina, according to the Quran, is where the Prophet Mohamed fled to and reorganized his followers before launching a final assault on Mecca, having earlier been rejected and chased from Mecca itself,” explained a source with deep knowledge of ADF/MTM history. The ADF/MTM hope to reorganize in DRC before launching a campaign to conquer Uganda, which they regard as Mecca. “After conquering Uganda they shall declare a Caliphate much in the same way as ISIS attempted to do in Iraq and Syria,” added the source.