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Troops, Hutus Fight for 3rd Day in Burundi Capital

September 06, 1996| From Associated Press

BUJUMBURA, Burundi — Government troops engaged in sporadic gunfire with Hutu rebels Thursday, the third day of fighting since the Tutsi-dominated army tried to drive the guerrillas from the outskirts of the capital.

The military said 20 rebel fighters and three soldiers had been killed since Tuesday, when troops attacked rebels massing on the eastern edge of Bujumbura.

Area residents said it appeared the Hutu guerrillas were attempting to cut off access to the city, taking hilltop positions Tuesday and firing mortars at an eastern suburb.

After the army retaliated Wednesday by firing on rebel positions, the Hutus were reported to be withdrawing.

Only occasional gunfire and cannon blasts were heard for most of Thursday. Late in the day, troops fired machine guns and mortars across a valley into the village of Sororezo. The rebels responded with rifle fire, but residents said both sides were too far apart to cause any damage.

The fighting has raised doubts about the ability of retired Maj. Pierre Buyoya, the country's Tutsi military ruler, to establish a semblance of peace in Burundi.

Buyoya took power July 25 in a coup that overthrew the Hutu president. Buyoya claimed he was the only one who could put an end to ethnic violence that has killed 150,000 since October 1993.

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