Tanzania forces refugees back

Bujumbura (AFP) - More fighting was reported in Burundi yesterday as UN officials complained that Tanzanian troops beat and turned back up to 2,000 refugees trying to cross the border after massacres in their villages. Tanzania closed the border last Friday as 57,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees fled camps in north-eastern Burundi where they had settled after a savage civil war in their own country last year.

Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for Burundi, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, launched a scathing attack on the Western press and the international community in general, saying they were pushing the country toward genocide. Mr Ould Abdallah said that by reporting Burundi as being on the verge of genocide - which he said is not the case - the press is fanning the flames of anger in the country.

"There is violence, there have been massacres, but to jump from that and report genocide is scandalous in a traumatised country," Ould Abdallah said.

He also lambasted the West for the plight of refugees seeking to cross the border into Tanzania and being shut out. He said the right channel would have been discreet negotiations with Tanzania rather than high-profile calls for it to reopen its border.

Radio Burundi said "armed gangs" - Hutu extremists - had killed six members of a Tutsi family on Tuesday in a village in the centre of the country, and that Tutsis had retaliated, killing 29 Hutus.

The US Ambassador, Robert Krueger, and other diplomatic and relief agency sources say soldiers of the Tutsi-dominated army and Tutsi militias massacred around 400 Hutus - mainly women and children - in north-eastern Burundi last week. Mr Krueger said around 150 Hutus were killed in Gasorwe by troops of the Tutsi-dominated army and Tutsi militias. The army denied the charges, saying troops killed about 20 Hutu guerrillas preying on the local population. A visit to Gasorwe showed it deserted, with the houses padlocked.

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