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US Hails Arrest of Rwandan Genocide Suspect - 2002-10-01

The United States has hailed the arrest by authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo of a key suspect in the 1994 genocide campaign in Rwanda. The wanted man, Tharcisse Renzaho, was apprehended in Congo and handed over to the International Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania.

Mr. Renzaho was the governor, or prefect, of the Rwandan capital Kigali at the time of the mass killings in Rwanda. And his arrest is being welcomed here as a major advance in the drive to bring to justice those responsible for the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the rampage by Hutu militants.

At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the arrest was part of a commitment made by the Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila to President Bush, when they met on sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York two weeks ago.

The spokesman said that while Mr. Renzaho, a former Rwandan army colonel, was not on a list of war crimes suspects for whom the United States is offering rewards, he is nonetheless believed to have been a key figure in the murder campaign. "He is a former prefect of Kigali. He's accused of being one of the masterminds of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which killed approximately 800,000 people. He's believed to have played a leading role in fomenting the conflicts that have besieged the Congo for the past decade," says Mr. Boucher. "He is also believed to be the leader of the, a leader of, the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, a group that is linked to the killing of American and British citizens in Bwindi, Uganda, in 1999. So that's -- it's a major figure, and it's an important development."

The State Department said the apprehension of Mr. Renzaho capped a week that saw "great progress" toward peace in the central African region, including "significant" withdrawals of Rwandan forces from the Congo, and the Kabila government's severing of ties with the Rwandan guerrilla group to which the arrested man belonged.

Mr. Boucher said the United States urges President Kabila and members of his government, as well as all states in the region, to "continue down this path" and arrest all persons indicted for genocide who remain at large. Despite some high-profile arrests in recent months, more than 40 key suspects in the Rwandan mass killings remain at large.

The United States is offering rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of several of those still wanted, under the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program.