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Six Hutu Rebels Charged In Killing Of U.N. Workers Pair Of Kidnapped Spanish Nuns Released Unharmed By Captors

Six Hutu rebels have been charged in the 1997 killings of four U.N. human rights monitors, state-run Rwandan radio reported Saturday.

The monitors and their driver were ambushed near Cyangugu, 150 miles southwest of Kigali and on the border with Congo, where the rebels pass easily in and out of the country.

U.N. human rights spokesman Jose-Luis Herrero said the six accused were captured in Cyangugu in February 1997.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said that two Spanish nuns kidnapped by Hutu rebels six days ago were freed by their captors Saturday. It was not clear how or why they won their freedom.

Both nuns were in good health and were taken to Goma, in neighboring Congo, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Madrid, Spain.

The two, a doctor and a nurse from Saint Anne’s Sisters of Charity order, were kidnapped Monday when rebels attacked a church-run health center in northwestern Rwanda, killing 20 people. On Tuesday, the rebels freed five other Rwandan nuns kidnapped along with the Spaniards.

The six Hutu rebels charged with involvement in the 1997 killings of U.N. monitors also had been charged with armed robbery and state security.

The court in Cyangugu agreed Friday to adjourn proceedings until April 16 because the accused - five men and a woman - did not have lawyers and had not been told of their right to have them, Herrero said. They did not enter pleas, Herrero said.

The killing has severely restricted the movement of U.N. rights monitors and made it difficult for them to gather reports on human rights violations outside Kigali.

In a separate development, an army spokesman said Saturday that Rwandan troops had killed 20 rebels in “mop-up operations” in the north of the country during the week, the private Rwanda News Agency reported.

Maj. John Birasa said the rebels were killed after the army moved against a 300-strong group of militiamen who had seized a school on Wednesday in a failed attempt to divide the students along ethnic lines.

Thousands of people have been killed in rebel attacks and army reprisals since the return in November 1996 of more than 1 million Hutu refugees from exile.