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300 boys kidnapped in Burundi

BUJUMBURA, Burundi -- A fragile peace deal in Burundi has been thrown into further disarray after Hutu rebels kidnapped up to 300 boys after raiding their college at dawn.

It is the second time in a week that a mass abduction has taken place in the ethnically-riven African country.

Earlier in the week 50 young children and several teachers were taken from the Ruyigi province.

The latest raid on Friday happened at Musema college in northwestern Kayanza province.

Between 250 and 300 students, aged between 13 and 21, were taken, local government administrator Come Hatungimana told Reuters.

A rebel commander from the main Hutu FDD group confirmed to Reuters from an undisclosed location that the group had taken the pupils.

Burundi army spokesman Augustin Nzabampema said the rebels had set fire to the school's library and boarding section before making off with all the male pupils, except four who managed to escape.

It is feared the boys will probably be used as soldiers.

"This morning, we had an attack at dawn at the Musema college, by a group ... that we estimated at platoon strength," Nzabampema told Reuters.

"All the male students in the senior school were kidnapped."

Fresh start

A search has been ordered by the army, which is already hunting for several teachers and more than 50 children aged between 10 and 16 abducted from their primary school about 105 kilometres (65 miles) from the capital on Tuesday.

Local officials and the army have suggested the rebels may want the children to join their ranks fighting the Tutsi-dominated army in Burundi's eight-year-old civil war.

Fighting has intensified in Burundi during the past week despite a new government being sworn in, which has the backing of other African leaders including former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The new Burundi regime is intended to mark a fresh start for the war-torn country by sharing power evenly between the deeply divided Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

The army says it has killed more than 160 rebels in the past week and lost four soldiers while local government officials have confirmed that more than 75 civilians have been killed.

The rebels refuse to negotiate with the new government, saying they were not involved in peace talks.

The war, which began in 1993 and pits armed Hutu rebels against the Tutsi-dominated army has killed more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians, and ignited a humanitarian crisis largely ignored in the West.


• Burundi's fragile peace
November 8, 2001

• U.N. information network: Africa

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