Weekend clashes between the Rwandan army and Hutu rebels in northern Rwanda left more than 170 people dead, including civilians, an official said Wednesday.
Boneface Rucagu, governor of Ruhengeri prefecture, said the Tutsi-led military killed 136 Hutu rebels in two areas in the prefecture, and 40 civilians died in the cross fire.
Rucagu’s claims could not be independently confirmed.
Ruhengeri, 40 miles northwest of the capital, Kigali, has been the site of increasing clashes between the army and rebels in recent months. And international human rights workers say that hundreds of civilians have been killed in previous attacks by the military, often in reprisal for rebel assaults.
The private Rwanda News Agency reported earlier that the military attack was launched Friday in Kigombe after 400 to 500 rebels tried to establish a base in Ruhengeri.
At a regular briefing this week, the U.S. Embassy reported heavy clashes Friday in Cyabingo, south of Ruhengeri. It did not provide further details.
Also Wednesday, Rwandan Defense Minister Paul Kagame defended Congolese president Laurent Kabila’s decision to impose conditions on a U.N. team that was to look into alleged massacres of Rwandan refugees.
Kabila’s demands forced U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to scrap the mission. Annan said instead he would send his own team to investigate reports that thousands of refugees might have been killed by Kabila’s army.
Amnesty International said Annan’s decision, announced last week, could compromise the investigation.
Kabila’s government rejected the leader of a team from the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission, saying Roberto Garreton of Chile had produced a biased report on the alleged massacres.