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Rwandan soldiers bring death to hospital

KIGALI - Rwandan soldiers bayonetted to death two patients at Kigali's central hospital yesterday where the dying lay on piles of butchered bodies.

Two men in civilian clothes - one of them wounded - had just arrived outside the emergency room when three soldiers walked up to them from behind. The soldiers pulled out bayonets and plunged them repeatedly into the two men who fell to the ground.

The attack, which lasted less than a minute, took place in full view of staff and people waiting for treatment. No one moved until the soldiers had walked out of sight. The two bodies were quickly removed.

Witnesses said such killings by the army were common. Seven patients at the hospital, which is surrounded by army checkpoints, were killed on Sunday by troops who beat others with rifle butts. Aid workers said the two men were apparently targeted because they were members of Rwanda's Tutsi minority, which has borne the brunt of massacres at the hands of the Hutu majority since President Juvenile Habyrimana was killed last Wednesday in a rocket attack on his plane.

The hospital, Kigali's largest, faces the Hotel De Diplomats where the country's fragile government is holed up under army guards as battles between government troops and Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels swept towards them yesterday. The RPF reinforcements were last night reportedly on the edge of the city.

A French military commander said the first RPF frontline unit was now only 2.5kms (1.5 miles) from the French school where trapped Westerners are assemblying for evacuation in central Kigali.

The hospital is overflowing with an estimated 700 wounded men, women and children - some lying on dirty mattresses and floors next to corpses draped in blankets. Relatives, desperate for the two doctors left at the hospital, pleaded with any passing visitor for treatment or help in moving patients to a safer place outside the capital. At the back of the hospital compound about 40 bodies were rotting in the drizzle, piled in places up to seven metres deep.

A young, naked woman lay on the top of the fly-covered, stinking pile, her limbs stiff with rigor mortis. Most of the dead were men but there were also several children with knife wounds.

Through a corridor full of relatives cooking food for patients over open fires and washing in a dirty drain was another pile of about 60 corpses. On the edge lay two young men - one with his throat cut and the other with stab wounds to his face and chest. They wept in mourning as they tried in vain to pull away from the mound of dead bodies.

Men and women standing around them laughed when the 'bodies' moved but one man told journalists: 'Please stay here. They are going to kill us all if you leave.' A doctor said the two wounded men would soon be dead but it was too dangerous to move them.

Despite the mayhem at the hospital, International Committee of the Red Cross workers managed to evacuate more than 100 wounded to take them to a hospital in the town of Kabguyi, 50km south-east of the capital. The ICRC requested and received an army escort to protect the casualties as they were carried out on stretchers.