Burundi

Catholic Relief Services staff safe following rebel ambush in Burundi

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Bujumbura, Burundi, January 20, 2000 -- Rebels opened fire today on a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) armored vehicle carrying two CRS employees and one from CRS partner Caritas Burundi. The vehicle was traveling on a main highway following a visit to a "regroupment" camp 20 miles from Bujumbura. Nineteen bullets hit the car, but no one was injured in the attack.
"We are very thankful that our staff is safe," said Susan Hahn, CRS Regional Director for East Africa. "Although this random act forces us to increase security measures, we remain committed to the people of Burundi."

The CRS vehicle was traveling along a main north-south highway when it encountered the rebels, who blocked the road with a fallen tree. When rebels opened fire, the CRS driver put the vehicle in reverse for two kilometers until they reached a Burundi military patrol guarding the road. Passengers in other vehicles along the road that did not escape were robbed and some were wounded. One vehicle was burned.

CRS had just relaxed an emergency policy on January 10 allowing more movement outside the capital city of Bujumbura. In response to today's attack CRS will restrict its movements to a specified perimeter, but will continue its role as lead agency in providing non-food assistance to the more than 300,000 civilians living in the controversial "regroupment" camps set up by the Burundian army.

Catholic Relief Services, which has been operating in Burundi since 1963, began assisting the World Food Program with food distributions yesterday in two camps where there is increasing malnutrition outside Bujumbura. David Rothrock, CRS Country Representative in Burundi, said the attack was random and had no connection with the commencement of food distributions to the camps near the capital.

Catholic Relief Services is the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Catholic Church. Operating in more than 80 countries around the world, Catholic Relief Services provides assistance based solely on the basis of need, not race, creed, or nationality.

For more information about Catholic Relief Services and our programs around the world, visit our web site at www.catholicrelief.org.

RELEASE DATE: Immediate

CONTACT: Jennifer Lindsey
(410) 625-2220, ext. 3256
jlindsey@catholicrelief.org