The assaults on a military position in northwestern Cibitoke province and an ambush 20 kilometres north of Bujumbura occurred Tuesday, a day after the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Burundi was reported to have been killed along with six others in an ambush.
The military position in Ngara, about 45 kilometres north of Bujumbura, was protecting a camp for Tutsis displaced by the ethnic violence that has claimed about 150,000 lives in Burundi since October 1993.
Although the Hutu ethnic group makes up 85 per cent of Burundi's 5.6 million people, and Tutsis only 14 per cent, the Tutsis have controlled the country since independence from Belgium in 1962.
Cibitoke province is largely controlled by Hutu rebels who began an insurgency when the country's only Hutu president was killed by Tutsi paratroopers in October 1993. They operate out of neighboring Zaire and the Kibira National Forest northwest of Bujumbura.
The rebels also ambushed two small trucks Tuesday near Bugarama in an area known for rebel attacks, said military spokesman Lt.-Col. Isaie Nibizi. A driver and a soldier escorting the vehicles were killed.
Meanwhile, the military said it had recovered the bodies of two nuns and a church accountant who were travelling with Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna when his vehicle was ambushed Monday. The search for Ruhuna's body and the bodies of his driver and the driver's two children continues, said Lt.-Col. Longin Minani.
Ruhuna, a Tutsi, was an outspoken critic of the ethnic violence in Burundi. He spoke out against both Hutu and Tutsi extremists and was reported to have received numerous death threats.
From the Vatican, Pope John Paul lamented the apparent murder, praising Ruhuna as a "generous minister of God." Maj. Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, seized power from a civilian government in a July 25 coup, claiming that only he would be able to put an end to the violence.
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