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Boutros-Ghali condemns Burundi killings

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Aid workers say 1,000 deaths each month

July 22, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 GMT)

BUGENDANA, Burundi (CNN) -- With increasing fears that Burundi is on the brink of an ethnic bloodbath after this weekend's massacre, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros- Ghali on Monday urged all factions in the central-African nation to exercise restraint and urged authorities to investigate the killings.



"The secretary-general condemns in the strongest possible terms these wanton killings and those who carried them out," U.N. spokeswoman Sylvana Foa said in a statement.

The Tutsi-led Burundi army blamed rebels of the majority Hutu tribe for the weekend slaughter at a camp at Bugendana. Witnesses said more than 300 people were killed. Most of them were women and babies.

The killings were "all too reminiscent of the genocide experienced in Rwanda two years ago," Foa said, referring to the slaughter of some 500,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus by troops and militia of a Hutu-led Rwandan government that was later overthrown.

Up to 1,000 deaths a month, say aid workers

In Burundi, the horror of Saturday's slaughter was all too evident. Children are dead on the streets, their bodies tangled with those of their mothers, who tried to protect them from a massacre they could not stop.

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Some of the victims were shot to death, some stabbed with machetes and spears, and some others burned to death.

Before the attack, the camp was home to nearly 2,000 Tutsis who were displaced by fighting elsewhere in the country. Witnesses said nearly 1,000 people participated in the killing spree.

Their identity is still unknown, but Burundi President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, an ethnic Hutu, is placing blame on a rebel Hutu group. But the military wing of the Hutu rebel group denies responsibility.

Last month, at a location not far from the camp, more than 200 Hutus were believed to be killed by the Tutsi-dominated army.

In the past three years, more than 150,000 Burundians have been victims of massacres -- the result of ethnic and political tension that shows little sign of abating.

Aid workers say up to 1,000 people are dying monthly in Burundi's ethnic violence.

The ethnic makeup of Burundi -- like Rwanda -- consists of a Hutu majority and a Tutsi minority. There are concerns that widescale fighting may erupt, similar in scope to the genocide in Rwanda two years ago.

Burundi resists outside intervention

While the United Nations on Monday renewed its call for regional and international efforts to restore peace, many within Burundi reject a regional plan calling for the deployment of outside peacekeeping forces.

"For the past few weeks, ever since the plan was announced, there have been demonstrations -- even today. Burundians don't like military intervention," said journalist Bonaventura Ndikmuna.

And as the bodies of the victims from this latest attack are prepared for Tuesday burials, there are fears that the violence is far from over.

Burundi army steps up Hutu expulsions

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As Burundi began a week of mourning for the victims, the army stepped up its expulsions of Rwandan Hutu refugees Monday.

At least two refugees died of suffocation after being forced to leave in crammed container trucks, a U.N. official said.

By Monday evening, a total of 8,200 Rwandan Hutus had been trucked across the border from Burundi since the army's operation began last Friday, Paul Stromberg of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

Stromberg told Reuters by telephone from Kigali, Rwanda, that they were bracing for an "increased number of arrivals."

"What is more frightening is the condition of the arrivals," he said later. "At about 1630 (10:30 a.m. EDT) a truck arrived with two people dead of suffocation. They were an elderly man and a child of about 18 months."

He said most of the trucks were container trucks meant to transport merchandise, not people.

"On arrival, everyone is gasping for air; people are packed in like sardines," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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