Villagers demand protection as Hutu rebels slaughter 110

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The Independent Online
HUTU REBELS armed with machetes and clubs hacked to death as many as 110 people in attacks north-west of the Rwandan capital, an army commander said yesterday.

Colonel Fred Ibingira said soldiers had counted 110 bodies of those killed in attacks late on Friday at Buheta and Raba communes, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north-west of the capital, Kigali. The attacks were not reported until yesterday.

Col Ibingira said the attackers, who included residents from the area, had burned down a local official's house. It wasn't clear whether the official had been killed.

Ibingira, the military commander responsible for Kigali and Kigali Rural prefectures, spoke to reporters at a festival in the countryside outside Kigali, marking the beginning of the harvest season. He said he had no other details.

Wallis Gasamagera, the top official in Kigali Rural prefecture, said local Hutus had asked for guns to defend themselves against Hutu rebel attacks.

Mr Gasamagera said people had recognised some of the attackers and had captured one. Soldiers in the area were searching for the rebels, who had probably escaped towards the heavily forested northwest corner of the country, he said.

The attack was the worst since the rebels - former Hutu soldiers - killed and burned 34 people last month at a roadside inn on the main road from Kigali to the northwest.

The rebels rely on Rwanda's majority Hutu population for food, shelter and money. But Hutus have increasingly complained of rebel harassment and intimidation and have often sought army protection.

The attackers are among those responsible for the 1994 genocide of more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus. The killing ended when Tutsi-led rebels won power in July 1994.

Rebel attacks have been on the increase since November 1996, when Hutu fighters mingled with more than 1 million refugees returning from exile.