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6 Hutu Civilians Killed in Burundi

October 9, 1999

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) _ A soldier slipped away from his post and later opened fire on Hutu civilians who had been forcibly moved to a camp outside the capital, the army said Saturday.

Six people were killed and seven injured in Friday’s shooting spree, said Army spokesman Col. Longin Minani.

A survivor, though, said 13 people were killed, and that there had been several soldiers on the rampage through the Ruyaga camp, eight miles east of the capital, Bujumbura.

Minani said a soldier left his position without orders and went to Ruyaga at about 5:30 p.m. Friday.

``He asked one suspicious person for his identity card, and that person ran away,″ Minani said. ``The undisciplined soldier opened fire, and the bullets hit people who were running in all directions because of panic.″

Minani said military police were searching the camp for the soldier, who would be tried by a court martial.

A woman, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, said that several soldiers came to the Ruyaga camp and asked where Hutu rebels were hiding.

``We said we did not know, and they began shooting at us,″ she said.

The Tutsi-dominated government said it moved Hutu civilians from the capital to temporary camps for their protection, after Hutu rebels stepped up attacks in the capital six weeks ago. Several dozen people, including civilians, soldiers and rebels, have been killed.

U.N. agencies and other relief organizations estimate at least 250,000 people have been moved to the camps. Ruyaga houses about 30,000 in precarious conditions.

Both the European Union and the United States have criticized the forced movement of civilians, and the U.N. World Food Program says it is distributing food on a ``need only″ basis.

A vicious cycle of violence erupted in Burundi in October 1993 after Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the country’s first democratically elected president, a Hutu. Tutsis had been in control of the tiny central African nation since 1962, when it gained independence from Belgium.

Hutus vented their rage on minority Tutsis, after which the Tutsi-dominated army and Tutsi militia lashed out at Hutus.

Since then, more than 200,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the violence.

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