Author-card of document number 12931

Thursday April 7, 1994
Explosions rock Rwandan capital after presidents killed
Identifier (cote)
Dépêche d'agence
KIGALI, April 7 (Reuter) - Explosions rocked the Rwandan capital Kigali
on Thursday and heavy fighting broke out around the presidential
palace, hours after the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in
a rocket attack on their plane as they flew back from regional peace
talks, witnesses said.

There is plenty of shooting out there, and we can also hear some
a Kigali resident said.

Diplomats said the killing of the two heads of state would throw Rwanda
and Burundi, ravaged by conflict between their Hutu majorities and
Tutsi minorities, into political chaos and might trigger more
slaughter. Both dead presidents were Hutus.

A government statement broadcast on state radio appealed for calm and
asked residents to stay in their homes until further notice. It also
told security forces to restore order and said the government had
formed an emergency committee to handle the crisis. It did not name the

The statement said President Juvenal Habyarimana, 57, and Burundi
President Cyprien Ntaryamira, 38, leaders of countries racked by tribal
friction, died along with two Burundi ministers and five senior Rwandan
officials. It said the plane's French crew members were killed but gave
no figures.

A Defence Ministry statement also broadcast on Rwandan radio said the
plane was shot down by unidentified elements in circumstances which
are still unclear.

But a government official who was at Kigali airport to welcome
Habyarimana home told Reuters two rockets hit the plane as it landed.
They did not have a chance, the plane just burned.

Government sources said Belgian soldiers deployed under the United
Nations mission in Rwanda were guarding the airport, which was
temporarily closed.

Rwandan troops guarded key installations in the capital and patrolled
streets. Most civilians stayed home but some residents walked in groups
in neighbourhoods, speculating on the motives for the killing.

You really don't want to go out there when we can hear the shooting.
No one knows who is in control,
a resident said.

Germany's ambassador in Kigali, Dieter Hoelscher, was quoted by German
television as saying eyewitnesses had reported that shots were fired at
the U.N. headquarters in the capital.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Jean Marie Ngendahayo told reporters that the
deaths of Habyarimana and Ntaryamira were no accident: What happened
was an assassination.

An official of the former rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) reached in
Kigali said the group was not responsible.

In New York, the U.N. announced the deaths of the presidents and the
Security Council stood for one minute in silent tribute.

Residents in the centre of Kigali, about 15 km (nine miles) west of the
airport, said they had heard several very loud explosions followed by
sporadic shooting and a small plane could be heard circling the
airport, apparently unable to land.

It is a terrible, terrible catastrophe for both countries at this very
dangerous time,
a Western diplomat in the Burundi capital Bujumbura
said. Anything could happen. But he said the city was quiet after the
news broke.

Habyarimana took power in Rwanda in a coup in 1973 and was blamed by
the Tutsi-dominated RPF rebels for repeated delays since December in
forming a new government and parliament to end three years of civil

Ntaryamira was elected in January to succeed Burundi's first Hutu
president, Melchior Ndadaye, who was killed by renegade troops from the
Tutsi-dominated army in a failed coup last October.

Ndadaye's murder unleashed a wave of Hutu-Tutsi slaughter throughout
Burundi in which up to 50,000 people were killed.

At the peace meeting in Dar Es Salaam on Wednesday, Tanzania, Kenya and
Uganda agreed to send their foreign ministers to Burundi to help
rebuild confidence in Ntaryamira's government.

The African leaders also called for reforms to the Burundian army which
diplomats said were essential for peace.

Ntaryamira told the conference he was grateful to neighbouring
countries for sheltering 800,000 Burundi refugees from the tribal
fighting since Ndadaye's death.

Tanzania said on Thursday it was stunned by the killings and declared a
day of mourning.

(c) Reuters Limited 1994

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