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Vatican Ambassador to Burundi Killed - 2003-12-29

The Vatican says its ambassador to Burundi has been shot and killed in the central African nation.

The Vatican confirmed Monday that papal nuncio Archbishop Michael Courtney died from gunshot wounds, but did not release further details. Reports say the Irish archbishop died while undergoing surgery.

Burundian army officials say the Irish archbishop was shot during a rebel ambush south of the capital, Bujumbura. The army officials blamed the attack on the Hutu rebel group, Forces for National Liberation.

The FNL denied any involvement in the archbishop's death.

The FNL is Burundi's last remaining active rebel group. The group has refused to join the country's peace process, calling the government illegitimate.

The group has been blamed for continuing attacks on government targets around Bujumbura, and on members of Burundi's largest former rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy.

Earlier this month, the FDD joined Burundi's power-sharing government. In November, the group signed a peace deal with the government in an effort to end ten years of civil war between the rebels from the country's majority Hutu ethnic group and the Tutsi-dominated army.

More than 200,000 people have died in Burundi's civil war.