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Rwandan Report Blames Hutu for 1994 Assassination

A government-created panel in Rwanda has concluded that Hutu extremists were responsible for the 1994 assassination of the nation's president, also a Hutu, setting off ethnic violence that resulted in 800,000 killed, mostly minority Tutsi. The report falls short of directly implicating the French in the attack.

In April 1994, the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart was shot down. Hutu militia groups, blaming Tutsi rebels, used the president's death as an excuse to launch a 100-day genocide that left the rest of the world in shock.

For years the exact nature of the president's assassination has been a matter of strong contention. A French judge in 2006 found the Tutsi-rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by now-president Paul Kagame, was responsible for the surface-to-air attack. The charge led the Rwandan president to cut off diplomatic relations with the European nation, ties which had long been on icy terms.

The Rwandan government accuses the French of helping to fuel the ethnic slaughter.

The report, which took two years to complete and was based on interviews with over 500 witnesses, found no direct involvement of the French in the plane crash, although it does allege strong ties between the French military and the Hutu regime.

Rwanda and France restored relations in November.

No one expected the panel, commissioned by the Kagame government, to find the Tutsi rebels guilty of the assassination, but analysts say the inquiry represents the most extensive investigation yet undertaken to uncover the mystery surrounding the former leader's death.

Rwanda Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama says the depth of the research backs up the report's claims. "The eyewitness testimonies of people who were in the control tower, of people who saw the plane collapse when they were at the crash site, of people who were doing different jobs around the airport, around the military camp - what they saw, what they heard that very night is what is in that report. And their conclusion, the conclusion of this [report], is that his plane was shot from Kanombe military barracks and that it was shot by extremist forces within President Habyarimana's regime," he said.

The final document alleges that the late president's own inner circle were the conspirators behind the missiles which brought down the jet.

The president was returning from peace talks in Arusha and was set to begin integrating the rebel RPF forces into the national army as part of a negotiated power-sharing agreement, allegedly opposed by the extremist elements within his regime.

Analysis given by ballistic experts at a British university were key to the report's finding that the projectiles originated from Hutu-controlled territory.