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U.S. will help probe Rwandan massacre

Albright
Albright
 

Albright makes announcement during African travels

In this story: December 12, 1997
Web posted at: 5:20 p.m. EST (2220 GMT)

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pledged Friday to send a State Department expert on crimes against humanity to investigate the massacre of more than 200 ethnic Tutsi refugees in Rwanda.

The Tutsis, from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, were killed at Mudende camp, about 80 miles (120 km) northwest of the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

U.N. aid workers and government soldiers were still counting bodies, a day after the attackers set fire to 200 huts and used machetes, hand grenades and guns against the refugees.

The death of three wounded Friday brought the death toll to 234, but it could still rise, said Paula Ghedini, spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency. But a teacher at the camp estimated that up to 900 people may have been massacred.

There were 227 victims hospitalized in Gisenyi, northwest of Kigali. Most were in serious condition with severe head wounds caused by machetes or nail-studded clubs, Ghedini said.

One survivor, whose son was hacked to death, said: "They came very quietly while we were sleeping and we had no chance to escape. They just started chopping, chopping, chopping."

War-crimes expert assigned to job

In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees said the attack was the worst to date on a refugee camp in Rwanda. About 17,000 refugees fled the camp after the raid, the UNHCR said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in New York that he was "profoundly shocked" by the slaughter of "defenseless refugees," mostly women and children.

Kabila
Kabila
 

It was the second attack on Mudende since the killing of 148 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis from the Congo, by suspected Hutu rebel gangs in August.

Albright, who is on a seven-nation African tour, said she was asking U.S. war crimes envoy David Scheffer to go to Rwanda to help investigate the latest massacre.

Scheffer has been accompanying Albright, who was in Rwanda on Thursday. She announced Scheffer's mission at a news conference in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, before traveling on to Angola.

Congo President Laurent Kabila, who met with Albright on Friday, called for an international investigation into the refugee massacre. He estimated "at least 800 refugees" were killed at the Mudende camp.

Albright condemns violence

Albright was the most senior U.S. official to visit Rwanda since the 1994 genocide of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extreme Hutu militia and members of Rwanda's former government and army.

Albright laying wreath
Albright lays wreath at mass grave in Nianza
 

On Thursday, she condemned the recent upsurge of violence in the country, which began when hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees returned home from the Congo, where they had fled, fearing reprisals from the genocide.

Albright laid a wreath in Rwanda Thursday at a mass grave with 1,700 victims of a 1994 raid on a school, where people had hidden.

She then visited a U.N.-sponsored center that has helped more than 280,000 refugees return to their homes during the past two years.

The Tutsi refugees began arriving in Rwandan camps late last year as they fled fighting at the start of the successful rebellion waged by Kabila. He seized power in May of this year, deposing dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

U.S. offers millions to improve conditions

Albright said Friday that the United States was putting together an aid package worth between $35 million and $40 million dollars for the Congo, formerly Zaire.

The funds, which still need congressional approval, would be used to improve democratic institutions, infrastructure, health care, sanitation and financial facilities, Albright said.

She also said U.S. Peace Corps volunteers would soon return to the Congo, and that the U.S. plans to reopen its aid office in the country.

Albright already had pledged $10 million to the Congo last Tuesday, to be administered through a World Bank trust fund. But Kabila on Wednesday scoffed at the offer, saying it was not enough.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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