BURUNDI: Villagers flee as rebel fighters attack splinter group's position

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fighters of Burundi's last active rebel group have for the second time in one week attacked a position occupied by a break-away faction, forcing villagers to flee their homes, a senior military official said.

The evening raid by combatants of the Front National de Liberation (FNL), led by Agathon Rwasa, took place on 24 October evening on a site where the so-called FNL "dissidents" have gathered in Gakungwe village of Kabezi commune in Bujumbura Rural province.

It forced hundreds of people from surrounding villages to run away as the army sent reinforcements to the area to guard the splinter faction's settlement, residents said.

"There has indeed been such an attack and the heavy exchange of gunfire was heard," deputy army chief of staff Major General Godefroid Niyuhire told IRIN on 25 October. There were, however, no casualties during the attack, he said.

The "dissidents" say they fought with Rwasa for the FNL, but Rwasa's supporters have denied their claims and accused the government of creating a faction within the FNL. Rwasa has said these men, who intend to join the country's peace process, are not even party to a 2006 ceasefire agreement signed between the government and the FNL.

The ceasefire agreement has not been put into effect because Rwasa's FNL has refused to take part in the implementation process, accusing Charles Nqakula - South African security minister and head of the mediation team - of pro-government bias.

On the night of 21 October, seven FNL "dissident" fighters were killed when Rwasa's combatants attacked their position at Gakungwe in Kabezi, according to army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza. Two government soldiers and two of the raiders also died in the attack.

Source: IRIN