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Burundian Rebels Ambush Cadets

August 8, 2000

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) _ Burundian rebels ambushed a truck carrying military cadets home from a handball tournament, killing 28 soldiers and six civilians, survivors said Monday.

The attack is the most deadly on the Burundian army since peace talks began in 1998.

The military vehicle was ambushed Sunday evening near Nyabiraba village, 15 miles south of Bujumbura, said one of the seven wounded survivors, who spoke from a military hospital on condition he not be named.

All 28 soldiers killed were students at Burundi’s national military academy, the Superior Institute for Military Officers, and were returning from a handball match in southern Bururi province. The road is normally closed to civilian vehicles at 4 p.m. because of rebel activity in the region.

The survivor said he heard the rebel commander order his troops to capture the survivors alive, but the wounded were able to escape into the forest.

A military spokesman was not available for comment and there was no immediate reaction from government officials.

Burundi’s civil war erupted in October 1993 when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the country’s first democratically elected president _ Hutu Melchior Ndadaye. It has claimed the lives of at least 200,000 people, most of them civilians. Another 1.2 million have been displaced.

The Tutsi minority has dominated Burundi’s military and government for most of the nation’s history since independence in 1962.

Peace talks resumed Monday in Arusha, Tanzania on a technical level. Former South African President Nelson Mandela has said he hopes to conclude a final peace agreement by the end of the month, but both the rebels and the government have publicly expressed doubts that an accord can be reached that soon.

One stumbling block for the peace talks has been the integration of Hutu rebels into the Tutsi-dominated military. One proposal would require the army to be 50 percent Hutu and 50 percent Tutsi.

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