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Burials Begin for 150 Following Burundi Massacre - 2004-08-15

In Burundi, the grim task has begun of burying the dead from the massacre of Congolese Tutsi refugees. Although one Burundian Hutu rebel group has claimed responsibility, it is still not clear who was ultimately to blame for the targeted killings of more than 150 people that analysts fear could disrupt regional peace initiatives.

The first burials took place Sunday for some of the Congolese Tutsi victims, who the United Nations says were shot, burned or hacked to death in a massacre on Friday night.

Many of the victims, who had fled fighting in Congo just weeks earlier, were to be buried in a mass grave in Burundi, in the hope that their remains will someday be returned home.

But amid the mourning, confusion still reigns over who was really responsible for the latest ethnic bloodbath, which has been called "genocide" by both Congolese and Burundian authorities.

The Forces for National Liberation, a Burundian Hutu rebel group that has still not signed up to Burundi's peace process, has said it was responsible.

But observers say the massacre was probably not carried out by them alone, as it was conducted by a team of heavily armed men and was well-planned and surgically executed.

U.N. sources investigating the massacre said the few Burundian army guards who were supposed to be protecting the refugees were neutralized before another team of gunmen specifically attacked Congolese Tutsi refugees.

The massacre has been widely condemned by the United Nations and the Africa Union, and there have been calls for an international investigation. But in the confusion surrounding the events, accusations have been made by all sides.

The Mai Mai, a ragtag militia operating in eastern Congo that is now supposed to have been integrated into the new Congolese army, has been accused by various authorities of having taken part.

RCD-Goma, a former rebel group that now holds a vice presidency and is part of the Congo's transitional government, has accused Congo's army of planning and taking part in the massacre.

Meanwhile, neighboring Rwanda has said the attackers included the FDLR, Rwandan Hutu rebels who took part in the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Rwanda has invaded Congo twice during the last eight years, both times arguing that it had the right to do so because of the threat posed by the Hutu rebels in eastern Congo.

On Saturday, Rwanda again publicly called on the international community to disarm the Hutu rebels, which Kigali says are still being supported by some parties.

Analysts say the massacre underlines the continued ethnic tensions in the region and threatens to undo months of work in trying to restore peace to Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.