Burundi’s Tutsi Army Admits Soldiers Killed at Least 50 Hutus
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) _ In an unusual acknowledgment, Burundi’s Tutsi-dominated army admitted Tuesday that its soldiers massacred as many as 50 Hutus and said some of the killers have been arrested.
Army spokesman Maj. Mamert Sinarizi said the killings occurred sometime after Oct. 13 when the soldiers rounded up the Hutus at a market in Matana, about 45 miles southeast of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura.
The military’s admission came in response to questioning by foreign reporters. The information was not broadcast on state-controlled radio.
``I can tell you that the killing happened,″ Sinarizi said. ``We have been told up to a hundred people were killed, but I think that number is exaggerated. It is probably 50.″
A local journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said up to 112 people are believed to have been slain, but the bodies have not been found.
Sinarizi said the soldiers apparently suspected the Hutus of supporting the rebel National Council for the Defense of Democracy, which Burundi says infiltrates the country from neighboring Zaire and Tanzania.
``We may be having a civil war, but that does not mean soldiers have to go around killing innocent people,″ Sinarizi said.
He said he did not know how many soldiers had been detained, but said investigations were under way.
A source close to the military, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an army captain among those arrested.
Burundi, a tiny central African nation, has been run by a military junta since July 25, when Maj. Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, seized power and pledged to discipline the Tutsi-dominated army.
Both the military and the Hutu rebels have been accused of killing civilians in the countryside. Each group blames the other.
An estimated 150,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since 1993 when the slaying of Burundi’s first democratically elected president, a Hutu, set off spiraling ethnic bloodshed.
Hutus make up 85 percent of the country’s population of 5.6 million, Tutsis 14 percent.