Rwanda refugees trapped and orphans massacred

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The Independent Online
NAIROBI - Rwandan troops and militiamen blocked the escape of 300 civilians threatened with death in the capital, Kigali, yesterday and 21 children and 13 Red Cross volunteers were massacred in the 'killing fields' of the south.

The United States and United Nations have increased pressure for regional action to end nearly a month of killings in which up to 200,000 are estimated to have died. But talks aimed at a ceasefire appeared close to collapse at Arusha, in Tanzania, .

In Kigali, hundreds of troops, pro- government militiamen and a mob stopped a convoy carrying 300 civilians to Kigali airport, where three UN peace-keepers were wounded on Tuesday in a mortar attack. They blocked the road and threatened to attack the vehicles carrying the people, including many from the Tutsi minority, who have formed the bulk of those slaughtered over the past month.

The 300 had been trapped at the city centre Hotel des Mille Collines for weeks, and were returned there by their UN escort after a standoff lasting more than an hour with soldiers and militiamen from Rwanda's Hutu majority. UN guards were posted at the hotel to protect those inside.

Abdul Kabia, head of the UN forces in Rwanda, said the UN would resume negotiations today to secure the evacuation. Last week elements of the armed forces and militiamen threatened to kill the civilians.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 21 children and 13 Red Cross volunteers were killed on Sunday in an attack on an orphanage in the southern town of Butare.

The children had been transferred from an orphanage in the Kigali area because it was believed that they would be safer in Butare, which is controlled by government troops and Hutu militiamen.

'This outrageous act took place in the context of the violence that has swept the Butare area in recent days,' said an ICRC statement, adding that the 13 members of the Rwandese Red Cross lost their lives 'in the most atrocious circumstances'.

Oxfam added its voice yesterday to those calling for UN military intervention, comparing the bloodshed in Rwanda with Cambodia's 'killing fields' of the 1970s.

Oxfam's director, David Bryer, said that without action by the UN 'we fear there is at least half a million of the Tutsi minority who are now at very, very grave risk'.

Rwandans began an orgy of bloodletting after President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in a rocket attack on his aircraft on 6 April. It is still not clear who carried out the attack, though the rebels are suspected.

Besides the estimated 200,000 killed, many savagely hacked to death in one of the worst tribal massacres for generations, more than 300,000 Rwandan refugees have fled into Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire.

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