Hutu Rebels Shell Burundi City

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Hutu rebels shelled the capital Tuesday and fought by the hundreds with troops in the north, intensifying their war against Burundi's coup-installed military government.

Three mortar shells hit western Bujumbura, with one striking the University of Bujumbura campus.

There were no injuries in the brief afternoon attack, the first on the tiny African nation's capital since December 1995.

''The military pursued the rebels above the campus, but the rebels were very far from where the bombs fell, so they didn't find anyone,'' said Lt. Col. Isaie Nibizi, spokesman for the Tutsi-dominated military.

Fighting raged south of the northern city of Kayanza on Tuesday, one week after rebels launched a major offensive in the area. Nibizi said there were no exact casualty figures, but that ''many'' were dead, including the mayor of Gahomba village.

Residents said about 2,000 rebels are taking part in the attack, which has stopped traffic on the main road leading from Bujumbura to the northern half of the country and the Rwandan border.

The attack was launched last month from the Kibira National Forest, a rebel stronghold.

Ethnic violence has killed more than 150,000 people in Burundi since 1993, when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the first democratically elected Hutu president. The coup attempt prompted the formation of Hutu rebel groups, which until now have been unable to maintain offensives against the army.

But the fighting near Kayanza, the destruction of a power line supplying electricity to Bujumbura and Tuesday's daylight attack seem to indicate the rebels are better organized than previously believed.

The military has been under extreme rebel pressure since Maj. Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, took power July 25 in a coup that drove the Hutu president to take shelter in the U.S. ambassador's residence.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press