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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 16:25 GMT

UK Politics

UK seeks answers on hostage deaths

Robin Cook: Seeking information from Uganda

The UK Government is demanding to know if four British hostages killed in Uganda died during a botched rescued attempt by security forces.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told MPs that he was seeking urgent clarification from the Ugandan government of the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Robin Cook: "We will want an immediate explanation of how this happened"
"It is not yet clear whether the Ugandan military intervened directly, but if that is confirmed we will want an immediate explanation of how this happened despite assurances we were given," Mr Cook said.

The Britons were among eight foreign tourists who died when the Hutu rebels who were holding them became involved in a gun battle with the Ugandan army.

Six other tourists, including two Britons, were rescued.

The shoot-out happened near the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where the 14 westerners were snatched on Sunday night.

Pledge to not endanger lives

The foreign secretary said that following the kidnapping the British High Commissioner had told the Ugandan Foreign Minister that the UK expected every effort to be made to achieve the hostages' safe release.

The Ugandan minister had given assurances there would be "no intervention that might put lives at risk", Mr Cook said.

Mr Cook extended his "deepest sympathies" to the families of the dead tourists.

He said that from interviews with those tourists who had escaped, it was believed the abductors were a rebel group opposed to the Rwandan Government operating from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He said the UK was willing to do all it could to try to help negotiate a settlement to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"This latest tragedy demonstrates the distressing human cost of that continuing conflict and the urgent need for a settlement," he said.

Mr Cook added that following the kidnappings the Foreign Office had updated its travel advice to urge travelers to stay away from the border region between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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