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Hutu Rebels Make 'Bold' Attack on Burundi's Capital - 2002-06-05

Parts of Burundi's capital city have come under attack by Hutu rebels. Fear of additional shelling has forced many residents to leave their homes.

Army officials and residents say at least six people were injured in a mortar attack on Burundi's capital city, Bujumbura, early Wednesday morning. Several houses were destroyed.

Fighting started Tuesday afternoon, when rebels of the National Liberation Forces, or FNL, attacked military positions in the north part of the city. Thousands fled their homes.

Observers say it is the rebels' boldest and most sustained attack on the capital since war broke out in Burundi in 1993.

Fiacre Munezero, a reporter with a local Burundian radio station, Studio Ijambo, said people are scared but they have nowhere to run to.

Mr. Munezero said today we are hearing shelling here and there. There are still people who are scared. Some have moved with their children and left the houses guarded by their domestic workers. Otherwise, people are mostly at home but most want to move. But it is difficult to say where to go when the shells fall all over Bujumbura. You don't know where is safe. There is fear all over the city.

Burundi's conflict pits rebels of the ethnic Hutu majority against the Tutsi-dominated army. Some 250,000 people have been killed in the last eight years, mostly civilians.

A new power-sharing government was installed in Burundi last November. But the two main rebel groups refused to recognize the accord.

Mr. Munezero said the second main rebel group, the CNDD-FDD, Wednesday, threatened to start attacking members of the Burundian government.

Mr. Munezero said the news today is that the FDD-CNDD rebels said that they will start attacking the houses of political figures. This is a new development in the war in Burundi. It was the houses of poor people which were being attacked but now the rebels say they will start attacking the real power holders, the politicians.

The rebels have been meeting with South African mediators to try and arrange cease-fire talks with the Burundian government.