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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 14:18 GMT
Trial for Uganda tourist murders
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The killings devastated Uganda's tourist industry
A former Rwandan soldier has pleaded not guilty to the murder of eight foreign "gorilla tourists" and a game warden in a Ugandan park in 1999.

Jean Paul Bizimana, 31, allegedly led a group of Rwandan rebels who abducted 14 tourists and their guide as they tracked rare mountain gorillas.

Nine of them were butchered to death with clubs and machetes.

Six UK and US citizens were allegedly targeted because of their countries' support for Rwanda's government.

Two New Zealand nationals were also killed.

A French diplomat was set free by the kidnappers, with a message condemning US and UK support for Rwanda's Tutsi President Paul Kagame.

Gorillas in the Mist

Mr Bizimana, alias Van Damme, was allegedly a member of the Liberation Army of Rwanda (Alir), formed by militias responsible for the 1994 genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

After the genocide, Hutu militias fled into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, from where they allegedly crossed into Uganda to stage the attacks in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The park is a sanctuary for the endangered mountain gorillas. It was made famous in the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist.

The attacks devastated Uganda's tourist industry.

If found guilty, Mr Bizimana could face the death penalty. He was arrested in July 2004.

Three other Rwandans have been charged in the US in connection with the deaths of the two US citizens.


SEE ALSO:
Rwanda tourist death arrests
04 Mar 03 |  Africa
Images of the kidnap drama
04 Mar 99 |  Africa
Survivor relives Ugandan terror
04 Mar 99 |  Africa


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