Burundi Troops Kill 3 Refugees

News and Press Release
Originally published
By CHRIS TOMLINSON Associated Press Writer
MAGARA CAMP, Burundi (AP) -- Soldiers shot three Rwandan Hutus to death at a refugee camp Sunday in northern Burundi, refugees said.

Refugees at Magara camp, 78 miles northeast of the capital Bujumbura, said Burundian soldiers shot the three a day after refugees hurled stones at soldiers and aid workers to protest their forced repatriation to Rwanda.

The refugees have become increasingly restive since Burundian authorities began closing the camps last month and sending them home to neighboring Rwanda.

Many of the refugees fear they will be punished for the 1994 state-sponsored genocide in Rwanda in which Hutus killed more than 500,000 people -- most of them Tutsis -- in a carefully orchestrated campaign of violence.

U.N. aid workers estimate as many as 5,000 of the 30,000 refugees in the Magara camp may have taken part in the genocide.

In January 1995, there were more than 200,000 Rwandan refugees in northern Burundi. But political instability, fighting between Burundian Tutsi soldiers and Hutu rebels and forced repatriations have prompted most of the refugees to flee to Rwanda, Tanzania and Zaire.

The refugees buried two of the victims right away Sunday, but the body of a third lay on a hillside near a group of soldiers for most of the day. Thousands of frightened refugees pointed frantically at the body but were afraid to retrieve it. Aid workers later picked it up.

On Saturday, the troops shot and wounded three other fleeing refugees when they refused to stop. Burundian authorities do not want the refugees to scatter within Burundi and have imposed stiff rules to keep them inside the camp.

Hundreds of Burundian civilians on Sunday looted a section of the camp that had been closed off. They then set fire to several huts. Soldiers stood by as the Burundians carried chairs, pots and firewood back to their homes while the refugees watched from across a valley.

After the weekend violence, hundreds of frightened refugees climbed into U.N. trucks Sunday to go back to Rwanda.

Another 2,000 refugees returned on Saturday, said Paul Stromberg, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Kigali, Rwanda.

It wasn't clear whether the weekend returns were voluntary. Troops have been threatening to close the Magara camp by force.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press