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Thursday, January 1, 1998 Published at 19:37 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Cathy Jenkins ]Cathy Jenkins
Nairobi

Senior military commanders in Burundi say that more than 100 people have been killed in an attack on a village and a military camp near the capital's airport. A spokesman for the army said that Hutu rebels launched the attack in the early hours of the morning. The Tutsi-dominated Burundian army has been fighting Hutu rebels since 1993 in a civil war which has killed more than 150,000 people. The size of this attack is all the more worrying for the government because it happened so close to Bujumbura. Our East African correspondent, Cathy Jenkins, reports:

Military officials say that a group of at least 100, possbily many more, attacked the government military camp close to Bujumbura airport before dawn. The government forces were taken by surprise - four died in an hour-long battle.

As the rebels retreated through a nearby village, they fired on civilians. According to the military officials, they killed at least 100 of the villagers and left more seriously wounded.

Thirty rebels were reported to have been killed. One military spokesman has described the incident as the biggest rebel attack ever.

For the Tutsi-dominated government it is all the more serious because it happened so close to the capital. The airport is only 11km from Bujumbura and although there have been attacks close to the capital before, the death toll in this one is the largest to have been reported.

One military spokesman said the attackers were Hutu rebels belonging to CNDD - the National Campaign for the Defence of Democracy. The rebels have been fighting the government since the assassination of the country's first Hutu president in 1993 - an event which plunged the country into civil war.

Other military officials said that rebel forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda had also taken part in the attack but this has not been confirmed.





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