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DATE=12/30/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RWANDA ATTACK NUMBER=5-45152 BYLINE=TODD PITMAN DATELINE=TAMIRA, RWANDA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Rebels in Rwanda last week launched their first attack in the country in more than a year. Reporter Todd Pitman recently visited the site of the attack in northwest Rwanda and has more on the story. TEXT: Surrounded by maize fields and scenic farmland at the base of several towering volcanoes 80- kilometers northwest of the capital Kigali, Tamira village is a resettlement site for Tutsi refugees who fled Rwanda in 1959, but have returned only recently. Largely unguarded and precariously close to the Congolese border - where extremist Hutu militias from Rwanda are based - Tamira was an easy target for attackers creeping through the area on foot. Forty-four-year-old Jean Damascene Ntaganda was at the site when the attack began. /// NTAGANDA ACT IN FRENCH, ESTABLISH AND FADE /// Mr. Ntaganda says he was at home asleep with his family when he awoke to the crackle of gunfire. As gunmen broke down the front door to his house, Mr. Ntaganda grabbed his terrified wife and one of his children and took cover under a bed. The attackers, carrying flashlights, stepped into a side room and shot his mother and three of his children at point-blank range. /// NTAGANDA ACT IN FRENCH, ESTABLISH AND FADE /// Mr. Ntaganda says rebels then broke through a wooden door into his room and opened fire again, killing his wife instantly and leaving him - with a bullet wound in his shoulder - for dead. The attack lasted nearly one-hour before soldiers from a nearby camp repulsed the insurgents. When it was over, 29-civilians were dead and eight were wounded. At Tamira, pock marks from bullet holes are scattered across white plaster walls on a house where two people are said to have died. Outside another home, residents pointed to a chunk of someone's skull, apparently blown apart by a bullet, laying in the grass. Military commanders say the attackers were Interahamwe militiamen and soldiers from the former Hutu-led government who together orchestrated the country's 1994 genocide - a bloodbath in which extremist Hutus massacred an estimated 800-thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100-days. The slaughter was brought to a halt in July 1994 when Tutsi rebels ousted the former government and seized the capital, but attacks, ambushes, and massacres continued in the northwest for years. The area has largely been calm since late 1998, when the army pushed the insurgents across the border into the Congo at the start of a Rwandan-backed rebellion there. A senior Rwandan officer at Tamira, Major Emmanuel Karemera, says army troops pursued those responsible for the attack into Congo. Army troops killed several of the insurgents when they found them the next morning at a temporary campsite. The rest scattered into the forest. Major Karemera says it has been long time since the army has seen the rebels with ammunition and arms, but now it seems, they are being re-supplied. He says parachutes have been air-dropping arms to the insurgents across the border in the Congo. The group that launched the attack at Tamira were said to be carrying new machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Rwandan officials in Kigali have played down the rebels' strength, and say the attack at Tamira was an isolated incident. But that is little comfort for Tutsi civilians living close to the Congolese border, who complain that authorities have not provided adequate security to protect them. And with no weapons of their own, they are ill-equipped to protect themselves. Munyarugero Nkusi was one of two armed civilian guards protecting the site when the attack took place. Mr. Nkusi says some of the militiamen called out his name during the incident, proof he says, that some villagers in the area had collaborated with the rebels. ///NKUSI ACT IN KINYARWANDA, ESTABLISH AND FADE/// Mr. Nkusi says people at Tamira think the rebels have a vanguard in the area, sympathizers who guide them along. He says people here are deeply afraid the rebels will come back. (SIGNED) NEB/TP/GE/RAE 30-Dec-1999 11:06 AM EDT (30-Dec-1999 1606 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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