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Three Swiss Red Cross Workers Shot to Death in Burundi

June 4, 1996

GENEVA (AP) _ Three Swiss Red Cross workers were ambushed in a vehicle and shot to death Tuesday in Burundi, an African nation plagued by increasing ethnic bloodletting.

Tony Burgener, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the attack occurred when the three men were delivering water and medical supplies to hospitals in the Cibitoke area of the landlocked East African nation.

Red Cross delegates in a second four-wheel drive were fired on during the ambush near the village of Mugina but managed to get away to inform authorities.

In a statement the Red Cross condemned the attack as well as the lack of respect for the Red Cross emblem.

Killed were Reto Neunenschwander, 39; Juan Ruffino, 36; and Cedric Martin, 32. All were Swiss citizens.

The conflict between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated army killed 15,000 people last year and displaced 200,000 others. More than 100,000 people have been killed since 1993.

International mediators are trying to reach a peace accord between the factions and avert the large-scale violence that struck neighboring Rwanda two years ago.

At least 500,000 people were killed in Rwanda in April 1994, most of them minority Tutsis killed by extremist Hutus. Another 2.5 million Rwandans were displaced in three months of violence.

Local Rwandan Red Cross workers were among those killed in Rwanda.

The Red Cross stepped up humanitarian aid to Cibitoke province in the northern Burundi in recent days, Burgener said, because ``the whole population there is cut off from water there. We felt we had to start a full operation in the region.″

He said there had not been any attacks on humanitarian staff in the area although the ICRC lost international staff when a Red Cross nurse was killed in a 1993 ambush in Sierra Leone.

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