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UNICEF: Hutu Rebels Abduct 107 Kids

November 14, 2001

GENEVA (AP) _ Hutu rebels abducted 107 Burundian children from refugee border camps in Tanzania and only two of them escaped, the U.N. Children’s fund said Tuesday.

The kidnappings were in addition to the reported abduction last week of about 200 children ages 10 to 13 from three schools in eastern Burundi, the agency said.

``The reports are that Hutu rebels started a campaign a week ago, they burned two schools and health centers, and started to abduct children,″ said UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte.

In one school, rebels abducted 21 students and four teachers. One child and all four teachers managed to escape, but 16 other children still are missing, Belmonte said.

UNICEF estimates that over the past few days the number of internally displaced people in the region had swollen by 2,426. Of that number, 1,780 are children and 150 of them are alone.

The kidnappings come after the inauguration of a transitional government that is expected to pave the way for an end to Burundi’s eight-year civil war.

But fighting between the rebels and army has intensified since the inauguration of the government on Nov. 1, triggering doubts about its effectiveness.

The government, led by President Pierre Buyoya, is supposed to implement a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending the conflict, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives since 1993.

Although a minority, Tutsis have effectively ruled Burundi for all but a few months since independence from Belgium in 1962.

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