Burundian Hutu extremists have killed 300 civilians in the last two months

Monday, August 1, 2005

The Burundian Hutu-extremist group Palipehutu-FNL (commonly known as FNL), has killed 300 civilians in the last two months, according to local sources.

Burundi's Radio Publique Africain has reported the discovery of three mass graves in the provinces of Bubanza, and Bujumbura-Rurale - an FNL stronghold.

"Some of them are killed because the FNL accuses them of collaborating with national defence forces, and others are assassinated simply because they have deserted the movement", army spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza is quoted by Reuters as saying.

The FNL, a hardlined splinter group of the "Partie pour la libération du peuple Hutu", has been fighting the Burundian government since the mid-1990s. Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence, according to human rights groups. The organisation has consistently been linked with remnants of the Rwandan Hutu militia who carried out the 1994 genocide, and is believed to share a similar ideology.

In August last year, the FNL admitted responsibility for the massacre of 152 Congolese Tutsis at the Gatumba refugee camp in western Burundi. Rwandan and Congolese groups are also believed to have taken part in the attack. The FNL later claimed that the refugee camp was a military base. UN investigators found no evidence for the allegation, and human rights groups pointed out that most of the dead were women and children.

Although the FNL is known for its hostility to the Tutsi ethnic group, many of its victims have been Hutus accused of disloyalty.

Burundi's ruling FRODEBU party was recently accused by their electoral rivals of employing FNL fighters to disrupt the country's first polls since 1993. FRODEBU denied the charges, but admitted "political collaboration" with the group.

Speaking to Reuters, FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana admitted that his group had killed civilians in recent months, but said that those killed had been "people who are sent by the army with a mission of eliminating our fighters by giving them poison". Habimana also accused the Burundian army of attacking civilians.