Report: 6,000 Slain In Burundi

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- More than 6,000 people have been slaughtered in Burundi since a Tutsi army major seized power July 25, purportedly to end ethnic bloodshed in the central African country, Amnesty International said Thursday.

''We are disturbed that as many people have been massacred since the coup as were reported killed in the preceding three months,'' the London-based human rights group said.

Amnesty International said attackers killed more than 4,000 civilians near the central town of Gitega in a military operation to obtain information about Hutu rebel activity in the area. The report details other killings carried out by Tutsi soldiers.

Although they account for only 14 percent of Burundi's 6 million people, Tutsis historically have controlled the nation's army. Hutus make up 85 percent of the population.

Maj. Pierre Buyoya took control of the country last month, saying he acted to end Tutsi-Hutu violence that has killed more than 150,000 people since 1993.

Buyoya denied there have been any recent massacres. He also said he had no knowledge of recent reported killings in the northern outskirts of Bujumbura.

''There has been in this last week some fighting at a very low level here and there,'' Buyoya said. ''If there has been fighting threatening Bujumbura, I would know about it.''

U.N. human rights monitors were investigating the reported deaths north of the capital. A Tutsi military commander said he would launch an operation to drive out suspected Hutu rebels in the area.

The observers visited the morgue at King Khaled Hospital on Thursday to inspect the bodies of six people killed on Tuesday outside Bujumbura. The victims included two college lecturers on their way to administer exams.

Residents said they heard gunshots, and soldiers from the Tutsi-dominated military quickly sealed off the area before allowing family members to remove the bodies. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused troops of carrying out the killings.

Residents said another 11 people were killed in the same area on Wednesday, and that military officials have not allowed the bodies to be removed.

Independent confirmation of deaths in Burundi is difficult because of travel restrictions imposed by the military, and fighting in some areas of the country. Most information trickles into the capital well after an incident has taken place.

Family members of the slain Hutu professors held a burial ceremony outside the capital Thursday afternoon. The makeshift graveyard is only two years old, but it is it filled with hundreds of graves, many marked with simple wooden crosses with names inscribed in ballpoint pen. Some graves are marked only by two bamboo sticks tied together with a piece of twine.

After the caskets were lowered into the sandy soil, friends and family sang a hymn and listened to a short prayer. Heavily armed police kept watch for another possible attack.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press