Rebels Launch Series of Attacks in Rwanda

News and Press Release
Originally published
By CHRIS TOMLINSON Associated Press Writer
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) _ Suspected Hutu militants attacked jails and set government offices ablaze in southwestern Rwanda, killing at least 37 people, U.N. and government officials said Tuesday.

In the most serious attacks since former Tutsi rebels chased the Hutu-dominated government into exile in August 1994, the rebels carried out three separate raids Sunday and Monday in Cyangugu province, the official Rwandan Press Agency reported.

''I think there will be other attacks soon and I am worried about the security of local authorities,'' said Cyangugu governor Theobald Rutihunza.

The deadliest attack may have been a botched attempt Monday to free Hutu fighters imprisoned in Bugarama, 3 kms (2 miles) from the borders with Zaire and Burundi. The government said 40 people were killed in the local jail and the government offices set ablaze.

U.N. officials counted 37 bodies, ''but there were possibly more,'' said Marie Vander Elst, spokeswoman for the U.N. Human Rights Operation in Rwanda.

Elst said the attackers fired heavy weapons and wounded five people, including a soldier.

On Sunday, more than 70 prisoners escaped during an attack on the jail in Karengera, 18 kms (11 miles) from the border and north of Bugarama. Government offices were also burned.

At least 20 prisoners have returned voluntarily, the government statement said.

Also Sunday, government offices in Nyakabuye, which is between Karengera and Bugarama on the main road to the Zairian border, were attacked and the local jail destroyed.

There were no casualties, but a rebel was captured after the attack, the statement said.

Diplomats have expressed concerns that Burundian and Rwandan Hutus in refugee camps in eastern Zaire have united against their home countries' armies.

The armies and governments of both the Burundi and Rwanda are controlled by minority Tutsis.

Burundi and Rwanda once shared the same ethnic make up with 85 percent Hutus, 14 percent Tutsis and 1 percent Twa, but have different languages and histories.

Rwanda was ravaged by genocidal massacres in mid-1994 when the former Hutu government organized the slaughter of more than 500,000 people, most of them Tutsis. The killing stopped when a Tutsi-led front seized power and drove the former Hutu government and its followers into exile in Zaire.

Since then rebels have used refugee camps to launch cross-border raids into Rwanda, killing local officials and planting land mines.