Search Starts for Tourist’s Killers
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Ugandan and Rwandan soldiers set out on foot patrols today in a joint manhunt for the Rwandan rebels who hacked to death eight foreign tourists visiting a lush jungle famous for its rare gorillas.
Two Americans, four Britons and two New Zealanders were killed Monday after the Congo-based Hutu rebels raided several tourist camps in the area made famous by the 1988 film ``Gorillas in the Mist.″ More than a dozen foreigners were kidnapped in the rebels’ crusade to undermine Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government and its ally, Uganda.
At least six other tourists escaped, but three were still missing. Their nationalities were not known.
Ugandan and Rwandan soldiers joined forces today in pursuit of the rebels responsible for the slaughter.
``They are in Congo. We’re going after them,″ said Ugandan Lt. Charles Kakaire. ``We’re trying to surround them.″
Another Ugandan commander said soldiers tracked the rebels to a base in Congo’s Virunga National Park on Tuesday, killing some of the rebels as they scattered.
Though Ugandan police initially said the tourists were killed in the crossfire of an army rescue attempt, Uganda’s deputy chief of military intelligence, Noble Mayombo, told The Associated Press today: ``It was a mistake.″
Nayombo, speaking at the morgue while the bodies were being identified, said he expected the identification process to be completed by this evening.
The written messages left on the mutilated bodies were an ugly warning in a place of breathtaking beauty: ``Americans and British, we don’t want you on our land. You support our enemy.″
Mark Ross, an American-born tour operator and pilot who was among the survivors, said in Kampala that the rebels rounded up tourists from several camps and marched them through the jungle. He saw five bodies, their heads crushed and bodies deeply slashed, with no signs of gunshot wounds.
``We came across the first set of bodies. The women that we’d been told would be escorted back had been killed on the spot. It looks like one was raped prior to being killed,″ he said.
An FBI team was in Uganda and that an investigation was under way, said Virgil Bodeen, press attache at the U.S. Embassy.
The two dead Americans were Rob Haubner, 48, and his wife, Susan Miller, 42. Haubner’s company, Oregon-based Intel Corp., said they were on their third trip to Africa.
The parents of one of the four British victims, Mark Lindgren, 23, said he graduated from university last year and was two weeks into a three-month tour of Africa.
Another Briton who was killed was identified as Steven Roberts, 27, an amateur pilot from Edinburgh. The identities of the other British victims were not immediately available.
Two New Zealanders among the dead were identified as Rhonda Avis, 27, of Auckland, and Michelle Strathern, 26, of Timaru. Mrs. Avis’ husband, Mark, escaped, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman James Funnell said.
Ugandan officials did not release names and nationalities of the others killed but said at least four were women, and that the rescued tourists included two Britons, one American, one Canadian, one Swiss and one New Zealander.
They said three tourists, all men, were still missing.
Among those kidnapped late Sunday were three Americans, six Britons, three people from New Zealand, an Australian and a Swiss woman, government officials said. Uganda said French, Danish and Icelandic tourists also were at the raided camps.
The tourists were abducted at campgrounds on the edge of Bwindi National Park, known as the Impenetrable Forest, the starting point for visitors hoping to glimpse the 320 mountain gorillas that remain along the border mountain’s slopes.
The rebels are Hutu fighters who fled Rwanda after killing more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in the 1994 genocide there. They are angry at Uganda for supporting the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan government, and have been carrying out cross-border raids from bases in eastern Congo, often ambushing vehicles and kidnapping or killing passengers.
The rebels had earlier abducted four foreign tourists and seven Congolese guides and porters on a trek to observe the gorillas in August. They later released a Canadian tourist and all the Congolese escorts, but two Swedish tourists and a New Zealander have not been seen since.