Gunmen ambushed a U.N. human rights team Tuesday in a Hutu stronghold in southwestern Rwanda, killing four people in the third attack on international aid workers in recent weeks.
Two human rights monitors, a Briton and a Cambodian, and two Rwandan local employees were shot dead. A fifth person, an interpreter, was wounded.
In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Jose Ayala Lasso condemned the killings and ordered monitors working in the western part of the country to evacuate to Kigali. There are 139 U.N. human rights monitors in Rwanda, about half of them in the field.
“These deaths demonstrate once again the urgent need to work in order to ensure respect for human rights and to establish in Rwanda a climate of peaceful relations among all communities,” he said.
The monitoring operation, which began after government-sponsored genocide resulted in the deaths of 500,000 people in 1994, is intended to investigate claims of human rights abuse among Rwanda’s 7 million people.
From April to July 1994, gangs organized by the extremist Hutu government engaged in the bloody slaughter of minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus who supported dialogue rather than conflict.
At the United Nations in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was said to be shocked by the killings. His spokesman said all those attacked had been traveling in clearly marked U.N. vehicles.
The Briton and the Cambodian were carrying out a routine human rights investigation near Karengera, 180 miles southwest of Kigali, when fired on by unidentified assailants, officials said.
“Two human rights monitors were killed in Cyangugu prefecture, Karengera commune, in an apparent ambush, and two Rwandan local staff were also killed,” said Marie Van Der Elst of the U.N. Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda. “An interpreter has been shot and is in surgery.”
“Our team, under military escort, went to the site and confirmed that our two colleagues were dead. Both were shot,” Van Der Elst said.
“We are all very touched and very sad.”
The attack is the latest in a series of recent incidents in which foreigners have been targeted. It is the third involving U.N. human rights monitors.
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