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163 Refugees Are Buried in Burundi

August 17, 2004|From Associated Press

GATUMBA, Burundi — Survivors of a massacre at a U.N.-run refugee camp buried 163 Congolese Tutsis in a dusty cotton field Monday, some fainting in the hot sun as the simple wooden coffins were lowered into a mass grave.

Some of them wept as others told of narrow escapes as Hutu marauders rampaged through the Gatumba camp, screaming that they would kill any Tutsi they found.

"I did not dare to breathe heavily or even raise my head to see what was happening," said Domitien Ikora, who hid in a ditch during the three-hour assault. He heard the attackers "lobbing grenades, shooting, hacking and stabbing to death the children, women and others who were not quick enough to flee."

The attackers beat drums and blew horns as they "went into each hut to slaughter occupants and burned what they could not loot," said Ikora, who lost 14 family members.

During the funeral, Burundian army helicopters circled overhead, underlining fears of renewed conflict in the region that includes Burundi, Rwanda and eastern Congo.

Violence between Hutus, who constitute a majority in Burundi and Rwanda, and Tutsis, a minority in those two countries and the eastern Congo, has racked this pocket of Africa for more than a decade, spawning a civil war in Burundi, the 1994 Rwandan genocide and a five-year war in Congo.

The State Department on Monday condemned the massacre and called for a prompt U.N. investigation.

A Burundian Hutu rebel group, the National Liberation Forces, said its fighters had staged the attack. It claimed that Burundian soldiers and Congolese Tutsi militiamen were hiding at the camp.

Burundi's government sealed the border with Congo, and more troops were being moved in to head off further violence, said a Burundian army spokesman, Col. Adolphe Manirakiza.

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