KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) _ Hutu rebels trying to free their comrades attacked a prison in northwestern Rwanda and burned down a courtroom, killing nearly 300 people, a military spokesman said Thursday.

At least 200 rebels, 88 prisoners and two soldiers died in Monday's clash at Giciye, about 40 miles northwest of Kigali, army spokesman Richard Sizibera said.

The army was pursuing 93 prisoners who escaped and any survivors of the rebel force, estimated at 1,500 men, he said.

The rebels _ armed with automatic rifles, machetes and spears _ attacked the prison under cover of darkness, Sizibera said. ``They had two motives: freeing their comrades and burning down the court.''

In a separate incident, at least 27 civilians were killed Monday by suspected rebels in the nearby village of Mukamara, Sizibera said.

The attacks occurred in an area where Hutu rebels have repeatedly attacked Tutsi soldiers and survivors of a 1994 Hutu-led genocide in which more than 500,000 people were killed. Most victims were minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The inmates at Giciye were among thousands of Hutus who are jailed in Rwanda awaiting trial on charges of carrying out the genocide.

The slaughter ended after three months when Tutsi rebels chased Hutu officials, soldiers and civilians _ more than 1 million in all _ across the border to Zaire, now renamed Congo.

Some of the soldiers returned with refugees to Rwanda late last year, while an unknown number are hidden in forests along the Congo-Rwanda border. The government estimates at least 15,000 rebels are based in northwest Rwanda.