Burundi Army Kills 7 Rebels

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Soldiers killed seven Hutu rebels they believe took part in an ambush on Burundi's Roman Catholic archbishop, a military spokesman said Saturday.

Lt. Col. Isaie Nibizi said he had no proof that the slain rebels were behind the attack on the archbishop's car. But he said that because the incidents occurred in the same area, about 60 miles northeast of Bujumbura, the same individuals were likely involved.

Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna and a nun believed killed in the attack on Monday were still missing Saturday; the charred body of a second nun was found in a nearby hut.

Priests canvassed villages Saturday and about 50 soldiers searched the area, which is known for rebel activity. A memorial service for Ruhuna is scheduled for Tuesday regardless of whether his body is recovered.

Soldiers killed the seven rebels Thursday about a mile from Monday's incident, said Nibizi.

The military and four survivors of the ambush have blamed the Hutu rebel group Force for the Defense of Democracy. Many Hutus believe Ruhuna was killed for his criticism of Tutsi extremism and the Catholic church's involvement in efforts to organize peace talks between the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebels.

The hills around Bujumbura were quiet Saturday. But residents heard sporadic machine gun fire and grenade blasts in eastern Bujumbura throughout Friday as troops fought to keep rebels back from the mostly Tutsi city. There were no reports of casualties.

More than 150,000 people have died in ethnic violence since Burundi's first democratically elected Hutu president was assassinated by Tutsi paratroopers in 1993.

Military ruler Maj. Pierre Buyoya, who organized the 1993 elections, seized power for a second time in a July 25 coup, saying it was was necessary to restore peace to Burundi.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press