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08 May 2008 07:57
The Burundian army said that about 50 rebels from the National Liberation Forces (FNL) were killed in heavy fighting on Wednesday that also left two government soldiers dead.
The clashes were among the worst since hostilities resumed three weeks ago, dashing hopes of a breakthrough in peace efforts and raising fears the small Central African country would plunge into a fresh cycle of civil conflict.
“Violent clashes took place all day in the Kabezi area, mainly around Kivomo. We captured 31 rebels who told us that at least 50 of their fighters were killed,” army spokesperson Adolphe Manirakiza said.
“Two soldiers also lost their lives and four others were wounded,” he added.
The fighting lasted until 5pm local time and the army used its air force and artillery in a bid to flush out pockets of FNL resistance in the Kabezi area, on the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura.
The clashes were among the most intense since an FNL attack on April 17 triggered a round of fighting that has now left more than 100 people dead, including several civilians.
Heavy handed government military operations appeared to have broken the back of the rebellion, which has been holed up in its main bastion of Kabezi for several days.
Fighting in the area had already forced between 6 000 and 8 000 civilians to flee their homes on Monday, local officials said.
Burundi was still recovering from a civil war that started in 1993 and has killed an estimated 300 000 people.
A ceasefire agreement reached in September 2006 has not been implemented and efforts to rekindle the process of negotiations between the government and the country’s last rebel group have not borne fruit.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the FNL had announced that a delegation of exiled rebel leaders would travel from Tanzania to Bujumbura in a bid to revive the moribund ceasefire agreement.—Sapa-AFP
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