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Papal Ambassador Killed in Burundi Ambush

The Vatican has confirmed its representative in Burundi, Archbishop Michael Courtney, was killed in an ambush outside the capital, Bujumbura.

The pope's envoy to Burundi died in a Bujumbura hospital from gunshot wounds he suffered in an ambush. Missionary News Agency reported that the 58-year-old Irish prelate was on his way back to the capital from Minago, 50-kilometers south of Bujumbura.

He was traveling with three other people, a priest, another passenger, and the driver, when bullets fired from a nearby hill hit the car. According to MISNA reports, the priest was slightly injured in an arm, while the others were unharmed.

It was unclear who was responsible for the attack. Burundi's army officials blamed it on rebels belonging to the National Liberation Forces. Attempts by VOA to contact the rebels and Burundi government officials were unsuccessful.

[A Vatican statement calls the killing painful news. It says Pope John Paul II immediately prayed for Archbishop Courtney, who he called a faithful and generous servant of the church who was undertaking a dangerous mission.]

The Burundi government and the country's main rebel group, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, recently signed a peace agreement. The National Liberation Forces did not join in the peace process.

MISNA reports that there were rumors of a rebel attack in the area where Archbishop Courtney's car was hit.

Archbishop Courtney became a papal representative in 1980, and served in a number of countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, India, Yugoslavia, Cuba and Egypt.