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Rebel Leaders Threaten to Restart War in Congo - 2004-08-19

General Laurent Nkunda has renewed his threat of war in eastern Congo. The dissident army officer has said that last week's killing of 160 Congolese Tutsis in Burundi is proof that his people are not safe, and he would not hesitate to defend them militarily.

General Nkunda, who led an armed uprising last May in eastern Congo, has repeated his threat of waging war again in Congo's troubled east.

In a statement issued from his lakeside base just south of Goma, the general said that he had stopped his rebellion in Bukavu at the request of the international community. But he says last week's massacre of 160 Congolese Tutsis in neighboring Burundi occurred because of his withdrawal from Bukavu.

Because of that massacre, General Nkunda warned, he is ready to assume his responsibilities of protecting Congolese Tutsis, and, if necessary, fight to put in place a government that is more "inclusive", and seeks peace, rather than war.

The apparently targeted killing of 160 Tutsi refugees Friday in Burundi has revived political and ethnic tensions in the Great Lakes region.

It is still not clear who is responsible, but both Rwanda and Burundi have threatened to send troops into the Congo to hunt down the killers.

The massacre has also threatened to derail Congo's fragile internal peace process. Congo is struggling to emerge from a five-year war that sucked in six neighboring countries and killed about three million people.

Rwanda was one of the counties involved. It sent troops into Congo in 1996 and 1998 to hunt down Hutu extremists it believed fled to eastern Congo after the 1994 Rwanda genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.