Rwanda radio calls for massacres

NAIROBI - Rwandan rebels and government forces clashed in heavy artillery duels overnight in the capital, Kigali, as a radio station urged militias to step up the murder of civilians. About 170 hospital patients were slaughtered on Sunday in the southern city of Butare, and the United Nations was getting 'disturbing reports' of other massacres in the countryside, a UN spokesman, Abdul Kabia, said.

'Radio RTLM is calling on militias to step up the killing of civilians,' he said in a telephone interview from Kigali. He said the radio was controlled by two political parties of the majority Hutu tribe.

An estimated 100,000 people have been killed since a suspicious plane crash on 6 April killed the president and triggered a new wave of ethnic bloodletting between the Hutus and minority Tutsis.

Efforts to open talks to end the carnage collapsed on Sunday when the government delegation failed to reach Arusha, Tanzania. Mr Kabia said officials of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front left Tanzania later on Sunday. UN military officials were continuing to talk to the rebels and the government forces in an effort to arrange a ceasefire.

A UN official in Kigali, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government appeared to be losing the battle for the capital. 'The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) is pushing reinforcements into Kigali, has seized major terrain and has developed a lot of defensive positions in the north and northeast,' he said.

'Government attempts to dislodge them have been fruitless and have resulted in heavy casualties. It appears the RPF has encircled a number of garrisons and gained ground in other areas. The government forces are for the most part just reacting.'

Marauding gangs of Hutus, wielding machetes and automatic weapons, roam the streets killing Tutsis. The two sides have fought for political supremacy since Rwanda won independence from Belgium in 1962.

Two million people have fled their homes and thousands more are barricaded in buildings in desperate efforts to escape bloodletting that has spread to the countryside.

UN relief agencies have pulled their staff out of the country to escape the slaughter, leaving only the Red Cross and a handful of other private aid organisations to cope.

BUJUMBURA - A military coup failed in Burundi yesterday when soldiers refused to take part for fear of triggering a tribal bloodbath like the one raging in Rwanda, Reuter reports. The army chief of staff Colonel Jean Bikomagu said coup organisers and supporters had been arrested.