Burundi

Burundi: 13 killed in Ruyigi fighting

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BUJUMBURA, 17 March (IRIN) - An army officer, his bodyguard and 13 rebels died on Thursday during heavy fighting between government forces and rebels of the Forces for Democracy (FDD) faction led by Pierre Nkurunziza, a Burundi Defence Ministry official told IRIN on Friday.
The official, Serge Nizigiyimana, who is in charge of communication at the defence ministry, said the fighting occurred at Muhwazi in Nyabitsinda Commune, in the eastern province of Ruyigi.

"FDD rebels attacked the military post of Muhwazi, the commander of the post and his bodyguard were shot dead; the army replied and killed 13 FDD rebels," Nizigiyimana said.

However, FDD spokesman Gelase Ndabirabe denied that 13 FDD rebels were killed. "On the contrary, we killed many government soldiers. A commander is always protected by a big number of soldiers, when he is killed, all his escort is killed too," he said.

He said FDD fighters had been "facing the army" in the communes of Nyabitsinda, Kinyinya and Gisuru in Ruyigi Province since 12 March.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed concern at the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the entire province of Ruyigi.

Since January 2003, the Burundian army has prevented humanitarian agencies from delivering food and medicine to the displaced people in Nyabitsinda and Kinyinya communes, claiming that the areas are insecure.

"We don't know what is really happening in Nyabitsinda and Kinyinya," Danielle Lustig, an OCHA Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Bujumbura, said. "I have been in Ruyigi in the past two weeks to see how we could create a humanitarian corridor but no agreement has been reached with army authorities in Ruyigi province: the reason is the same - the region is not secure."

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