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19 Tutsis Slain During Night Raid

Mon., Sept. 22, 1997

Attackers raided a village south of the Burundi capital, shooting and hacking to death 19 Tutsis and injuring seven others, a witness said Sunday.

The killings occurred Saturday night at Gitaza, about 12 miles south of Bujumbura, said the 30-year-old witness who gave his name only as Vyakandonera. He said the attackers were Hutu rebels.

“They came after midnight and burned houses and killed everyone they met,” Vyakandonera said.

He was interviewed at King Khaled Hospital in Bujumbura, where his father was one of three people hospitalized with machete wounds. Another four victims were at Prince Regent Charles Hospital, also in Bujumbura.

Vyakandonera said he saw 19 bodies of men, women and children - all of them Tutsi. Some rebels were armed with rifles, but most wielded machetes and wooden clubs. He said they looted homes before setting them ablaze.

Government officials, including military spokesman Col. Isaie Nibizi, could not be reached Sunday for comment.

More than 150,000 people - both Hutus and Tutsis - have been killed since the 1993 slaying of the country’s first democratically elected president, a Hutu, in a failed coup mounted by Tutsi paratroopers.

Tutsis make up 14 percent of Burundi’s six million people. Except for a three-month interruption, they have ruled the country since independence from Belgium in 1962. Since then, Tutsis have violently resisted bids for power by Hutus, who make up 84 percent of the population. Twa make up about 1 percent.

Victims of the Saturday attack could not say which of the Hutu groups carried out the raid - the National Council for the Defense of Democracy or the more extreme PALIPEHUTU.

PALIPEHUTU, which has existed longer than the National Council, has condemned the rival group for negotiating with retired army Maj. Pierre Buyoya to end the fighting.

Buyoya, who seized power in a July 1996 coup, promised to end the spiral of violence. He has clashed with opponents to talks, both within his own party and among extremist Hutus.

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