Burundi

Over 200 Militiamen Killed In February

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BUJUMBURA, Burundi (PANA) - Between 200 and 300 soldiers of the former Rwandan Armed Forces and Interhamwe militiamen have been killed by the National Liberation Front, the military arm of the Hutu People's Liberation Army since the beginning of February, Burundian army spokesman Col. Longon Minani has claimed.
The former soldiers and the Interhamwe, regarded as the major perpetrators of the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis in 1994, were fighting in Burundi to support the National Liberation Front.

They reportedly decided to end hostilities in Burundi following the appointment of former South African President Nelson Mandela as the new mediator in the Burundian crisis, according to Minani.

The Rwandan fighters, considering that the war is nearly over in Burundi, decided to carry their weapons and belongings into the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they plan to reorganise before going to fight in Rwanda, Minani charged.

After the National Liberation Front learnt about the decision, it acknowledged that the move would weaken its strength.

Hence it started disarming and killing the Rwandans, Minani said, adding that the massacres started in the night of 1 February in Gitenga, in the commune of Kabezi, a few kilometres south of Bujumbura, and in Kibuye, about 10 km east of the Burundian capital.

According to Minani, the National Liberation Front and the former soldiers agreed at the end of 1997 to take power in Burundi and Rwanda.

The strategy consisted in "first fighting in Burundi until victory is won, then attacking Rwanda to take power there," he explained.

According to several witnesses, many of the former soldiers have led attacks against civilians in Burundi.

Meanwhile, other massacres of Rwandan fighters by the National Liberation Front took place Thursday in Rukoko, about 10 km north-west of Bujumbura.

Local populations saw several bodies floating on a river located west of Rukoko, at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The victims were tied up then thrown into Lake Tanganyika, after being hacked or shot in the back.

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