Hutu Rebels Block Burundi Road

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Hutu rebels have cut a main road out of the capital and launched an attack near the northern town of Kayanza, members of Burundi's Tutsi-led military said Thursday.

Guerrillas blocked the route near Muramvya, 30 miles northeast of Bujumbura, according to Tutsi soldiers posted at the outskirts of the capital on National Route 1.

The highway passes through Muramvya and then Kayanza on the way to the border with Rwanda to the north. Kayanza is 56 miles north of Bujumbura.

The rebels had moved within about a mile of Kayanza by Thursday morning, sources near the fighting reported. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared that the rebels had targeted a military base in Kayanza.

Hutus make up 85 percent of Burundi's population of 6 million. Tutsis account for 14 percent and Twas the remaining 1 percent. Tutsis have long held power in Burundi despite being a minority, and staged a military coup July 25 to overthrow Hutu President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and his weak coalition government.

Hutu rebels based in the Kibira National Forest in northwestern Burundi attacked late Tuesday just south of Kayanza, military spokesman Lt. Col. Longin Minani said.

There was no word on casualties.

The latest offensive by the rebels comes as international mediators meet in Rome to try to negotiate a peace agreement for Burundi.

Negotiators are discussing a U.S. proposal that would allow former military ruler Maj. Pierre Buyoya, who was appointed president during the coup, to remain in power. In return, Buyoya would have to restore the National Assembly and hold peace talks with the Hutu rebels.

Increased fighting has preceded such negotiations in the past as both sides have attempted to gain better bargaining positions.

More than 150,000 people have died in ethnic violence between Hutu rebels and members of the Tutsi-dominated army since Tutsi paratroopers assassinated Burundi's first democratically elected Hutu president in October 1993.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press