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Military Blamed For Ethnic Killings In Burundi Priest Says Tutsis Responsible For Recent Massacres Of Hutus

Market stalls stand empty at noon. The mud huts are abandoned.

Only fresh graves show there was recently life in this northeastern village before the soldiers came to kill.

A Roman Catholic priest said Tuesday that last week a driver with the Tutsi-led military allegedly was wounded in a grenade attack.

“So the military came back to kill people,” said the Rev. Paolo Stasi, a parish priest in the nearby village of Gisenzi.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Krueger said more than 150 people were killed in Gasorwe in attacks that began last Wednesday and continued into Friday. He said up to 450 people had been killed in similar attacks in the area over the past two weeks.

“People say there are armed bands around here. But it is not true. It is a pretext by soldiers to kill and loot,” said Stasi.

The priest agreed that the death toll in the area over the past two weeks probably did total 450.

“The soldiers come and start shooting in the air. They drive the people down the hills into the lowlands where more soldiers are waiting. They kill the people with bayonets and clubs.”

The massacres around Gasorwe are typical of the periodic and brutal episodes of ethnic violence between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis that have killed hundreds of thousands of people in this country since independence in 1962.

Hutus make up 85 percent of the population, but the Tutsis have the firepower, controlling the army and all other security forces.

Even with the recent killings, few here expect the small Central African country to suffer a genocide on the scale of neighboring Rwanda, where at least 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were slaughtered last year.

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