Scores dead in Burundi fighting

Forty-six rebels and three soldiers have been killed in Burundi in an army assault on the rebel National Liberation Forces near the capital Bujumbura.

    Hutu insurgents have renewed attacks around Bujumbura

    Army spokesman Major

    Adolphe Manirakiza said 46 National Liberation Forces (FNL) rebels

    were killed and 30 rifles seized by

    the army in a major operation in the town of Nyabiraba, 25km

    southeast of Bujumbura, on Saturday.

    "We also suffered the loss of three soldiers," he said.

    The mainly Hutu FNL is the last rebel group still operating in Burundi,

    which is emerging from an 11-year civil war that has taken more than

    300,000 lives.

    Manirakiza said the army operation was launched after the FNL

    attacked a position of the Hutu Forces for Defence for Democracy

    (FDD) which, after opposing the peace process, has joined the

    government.

    Past violence

    The FNL could not be contacted on Sunday about the fighting, which l

    ocal officials said had also caused 30,000 people to flee the

    area.

    "In the past weeks, small FNL groups have infiltrated Burundi

    from the east of the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] to come

    here and mark their presence"


    Major Adolphe Manirakiza,
    Burundi army spokesman

    Burundi's civil war was triggered by the assassination in

    October 1993 of Burundi's first elected Hutu president Melchior

    Ndadaye by the army, dominated by the Tutsi minority.

    The assassination triggered a

    rebellion from the Hutu majority which

    developed into a civil war.

    Fighting came to an end

    last year when the main rebel force reached a peace deal with the

    transitional government set up under an accord signed at Arusha in

    neighbouring Tanzania in 2000.

    But after several months of calm, the FNL has renewed attacks in

    the rural region around Bujumbura.

    Tutsi refugees killed

    A soldier and three FNL rebels were killed last week in a rebel

    attack near Bujumbura in the first such attack close to the capital

    in six months, Manirakiza said.

    The surge in violence in Burundi
    has broken months of calm

    "In the past weeks, small FNL groups have infiltrated Burundi

    from the east of the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] to come

    here and mark their presence," he said.

    "But we are present on the ground and we will end this quickly,"

    he added.

    The FNL has been designated a terrorist group by countries in

    the African Great Lakes region after they claimed responsibility for

    the murders in August of 160 Tutsi refugees in western Burundi.

    The country is in a transitional phase of government which is

    due to end in April with presidential elections, but plans for a

    referendum on a new constitution have already been pushed back three

    times.

    SOURCE: AFP


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