'8,000 butchered' in Rwanda capital

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The Independent Online
FRENCH troops evacuated 43 nationals from Rwanda's capital Kigali yesterday as guerrillas and government forces pounded each other with mortars from hilltop trenches. The Foreign Ministry said other rescue flights were planned for today.

Some of the 2,000 French and Belgian citizens had already left the country by roads leading to neighbouring Zaire and Burundi, amid fears that the butchery of the past three days in which thousands have died would degenerate into full-scale civil war. A spokesman for the Belgian branch of Medecins sans Frontieres said 8,000 people had been killed in Kigali alone.

Last night, a Belgian Defence Ministry spokesman said that Rwandan armed forces had blocked the runway of Kigali airport, raising doubts about a mission of Belgian paratroopers bound for Rwanda. Two planeloads left Brussels yesterday to protect and evacuate Belgians in the country. A force of 330 US Marines has also been sent to Burundi to assist with the possible evacuation of Americans from Rwanda. The Foreign Office said last night that all 65 Britons in the country were believed to be safe and could leave through the joint US-French-Belgian evacuation if they wished.

The Red Cross said that tens of thousands had been killed in a two-day orgy of violence by gangs of Hutu tribesmen, backed by renegade army units, and Tutsi rivals accused of killing President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, last Wednesday. 'Yesterday, we were talking about thousands of dead. Today we can start with tens of thousands,' a Red Cross spokesman said. 'Corpses are everywhere - in the houses, in the streets, everywhere.'

Rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front were reported to have advanced their main positions to within 20 miles of Kigali, after the RPF commander, Maj-Gen Paul Kagame, said he had 'irreversibly decided' to fight against government troops and hardliners from the majority Hutu tribe who have gone on a killing spree in Kigali since the death of Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart when rockets hit their plane.

Mortar bomb explosions and anti-aircraft fire echoed around the steep valleys from before dawn for the first time since a peace accord to end Rwanda's civil war was signed last August. The RPF vice- chairman, Patrick Mazamhaka, said at rebel headquarters at Mulindi that guerrillas were moving on the capital to reinforce a beleaguered battalion of 600 rebels stationed in Kigali as part of the peace accord.

Ties of hatred, page 12