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U.N. Condemns Burundi Slayings

Kofi Annan urges a crackdown on armed groups in region. The number of Congolese refugees killed in the attack is lowered to 150.

August 16, 2004|From Times Wire Services

UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council condemned the massacre of at least 150 Congolese refugees at a U.N. camp in Burundi and demanded Sunday that those responsible be brought to justice "without delay."

The condemnation came as the death toll in Friday's attack on the camp in Gatumba, Burundi, near the Congo border, was revised downward; initial reports put the number slain at nearly 190.

A statement approved by the 15 Security Council members and read by the council president, Russian Ambassador Andrey Denisov, condemned the massacre "with the utmost firmness."

Separately, a "shocked and outraged" U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the governments of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda to set up a joint verification mechanism to help crack down on armed groups operating in the area of their shared borders, a spokesman said.

A Burundian Hutu rebel group, the National Liberation Forces, claimed responsibility for the attack on the camp, which sheltered Congolese Tutsis known as Banyamulenge who had fled fighting in their troubled country. Officials said Hutu extremists from Congo and Rwanda were also suspected of taking part in the raid.

A spokesman for the rebels said Burundian soldiers and Congolese Tutsi militiamen were hiding in the refugee camp. But most of those killed appeared to be women and children.

The Security Council statement did not identify the attackers or the victims. Instead, the council called on the top U.N. envoy in Burundi, in consultation with the U.N. representative in Congo, "to establish the facts and report on them to the council as quickly as possible."

A U.N. statement issued in Burundi on Sunday expressed "outrage" at the massacre, noting that "most of the victims were women, children and babies ... who were shot dead and burned in their shelters."

The statement noted that Burundians in the refugee camp were not attacked.

As Burundian officials made plans for a mass burial today, Rwandan officials warned that the slayings could prompt Rwanda to send forces back into Congo.

"If we see the safety of the people of Rwanda dictates that we go back to Congo, we will discuss it with the international community to see if we have to take that route," Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande said.

Rwanda, which has invaded Congo twice to rout out the rebels, has long railed at the international community for doing little to disarm thousands of Hutu extremists who fled into Congo after committing the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people perished.

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