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Attackers Kill 190 in Raid of U.N. Refugee Camp in Burundi

August 15, 2004|From Associated Press

GATUMBA, Burundi — Attackers with machetes and automatic weapons raided a U.N. refugee camp in western Burundi late Friday, hacking and shooting to death about 190 men, women and children, U.N. officials said.

Burundian Hutu rebels claimed responsibility, insisting that the camp for Congolese Tutsi refugees fleeing tribal fighting was a hide-out for Burundian soldiers and Congolese tribal militiamen.

But most of the victims appeared to be women and children. On Saturday, their charred remains lay among smoldering remnants of their former homes.

The attack resembled the killing during the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda and raised fears of retaliatory violence.

The camp, 12 miles from Congo's border, sheltered ethnic Tutsi refugees, known as Banyamulenge, who fled fighting in Congo's troubled province of South Kivu, U.N. officials said.

Isabelle Abric, a spokeswoman for the United Nations mission in Burundi, said 159 people died and 101 were wounded in the attack in Gatumba.

At least 30 of the wounded later died in hospitals, she said.

Leaflets distributed before the raid warned refugees to leave or face attacks by Burundian, Rwandan and Congolese factions seeking "to fight the Tutsi colonization," survivors said.

Later Saturday, authorities moved the refugees to a nearby school, where they will be protected by troops, said Louis Niyonzima, the local mayor.

Pasteur Habimana, a spokesman for the National Liberation Forces rebels, justified the attack, saying Burundian soldiers were hiding in the camp. "We were also attacked by armed Banyamulenge militiamen who lived in this camp," he said.

The National Liberation Forces is the last main rebel group fighting the government in Burundi's civil war.

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