From .......... Associated Press

December 20, 1996

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Security forces in Burundi massacred up to 500 Hutu civilians in what Amnesty International on Friday called a "deliberate policy of systematic extermination of a section of population."

There was no independent confirmation of the report -- the second report of a massacre of Burundian Hutus by Tutsi military in less than a month. Burundian military authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The international human rights group said it received details of a Dec. 3 massacre in Butaganza commune, where Hutus were told by the Tutsi-dominated army to take refuge from violence in a church.

"At around five o'clock in the morning soldiers surrounded the church, threw grenades inside and shot at those trying to escape, and reportedly bayoneted to death the wounded," Amnesty International said in a statement.

At least 243 were killed, the statement said. The soldiers reportedly set the church on fire and then searched for people hiding in nearby settlements and Ruvubu river swamps and killed at least 300 others.

Both Amnesty International and the U.N. Commission for Human Rights reported that around 400 Hutu refugees returning from exile from neighboring Zaire were killed in Murambi on Oct. 22.

Amnesty International accused Burundian security forces of killing at least 1,000 unarmed Hutu civilians in four provinces since November. It said more than 10,000 people have been killed since August, less than a month after Maj. Pierre Buyoya ousted a Hutu president in a July 25 coup.

At least 150,000 have been killed in a new cycle of violence in Burundi since Tutsi-led military -- the real power in the country -- assassinated the first freely elected president, a Hutu, in 1993.