`The hostages were executed'

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MARK ROSS, a tour guide who survived the slaughter in Uganda, said in Kampala last night that eight people were killed "execution-style" after being promised their release.

None of the kidnapped tourists saw the killings. "If you saw it, you were dead." said Mr Ross, 43, operator of Ross Travel Group, based in Nairobi. He said the killings were not caused by the Ugandan security forces attempting a rescue.

Mr Ross said the party trekking towards the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo comprised "about 130 people" - rebels and tourists - "but the line went out of sight into the forest".

Hutu rebels armed with AK-47s and other guns, but dressed in civilian clothing and wellington boots, were carrying one of their wounded on a stretcher as well as clothing and supplies looted from the camp.

The tourists split into a number of groups as they tired, straggling, sometimes some distance from one another. Then, at one point, a group of the Hutus told some women they would be released, Mr Ross said. Two women were struggling and were left with two rebels to be escorted back along the forest trail - a fatal mistake, said Mr Ross.

He later came across their bodies when he was released by the rebels. "It looked like one of them had been raped before being killed, the other was just killed." Mr Ross said.

"The ones I saw had their heads crushed in and then deep slashes with machetes.

"I cannot say why some were left and some were killed. It was like there were small groups of soldiers doing what they wanted."

The rebels told Mr Ross, who speaks the local language, their reasons for the raid: "They said they were hunting Tutsis and they wanted the world to know Uganda was a war zone."