Rwanda 'unsafe' for aid workers

Aid agencies in Rwanda are to scale down their operations but will remain in the country following an attack on an agency compound at the weekend in which three Spanish aid workers were killed.

The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reached their decision after an emergency meeting of United Nations and aid agency officials yesterday to discuss the situation in north-western Rwanda where the attack took place.

"Our security people are working with the NGOs to increase security," a United Nations spokesman told The Independent. "We've also had meetings with the Rwandan authorities. One of the things we're recommending is that no aid workers should stay over-night in Ruhengeri".

It is believed that Hutu militiamen of the former Rwandan army were responsible for Saturday's attack in which three members of the Doctors of the World (Spain) team were killed in the north-western town of Ruhengeri. An American who had to have his leg amputated after being hit by bullets is said to be in a stable conditon.

"I was talking to our team in Ruhengeri by radio 20 minutes before they were killed," said Cristina Pardo of Doctors of the World yesterday. "They said they heard some shooting outside. They decided to cut the communication but when we rang back there was no reply".

At least 10 agencies have pul-led out of the area. Among them is Britain's Save the Children Fund (SCF) whose residence in Ruhengeri was hit in the attack.

The head of Rwandan intelligence has confirmed that Hutu rebels opposed to the Tutsi-dominated government have decided to target foreigners in order to destabilize the country.

Hutu extremists, who fled to Zaire after taking part in the 1994 genocide of half a million Rwandans, are believed to have been among those who returned across the border into Rwanda at the end of last year.