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Rebels ambush military vehicle in Burundi

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March 4, 2001 


BUJUMBURA, Burundi- (AP) - Hutu rebels ambushed a military vehicle and killed two soldiers Saturday, a military source said, after the capital endured its seventh successive night of shelling.

The ambush occurred 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Bujumbura in an area where rebels are active, said the source, who did not want to be identified by name.

Details were not immediately available.

Late Friday, a presidential guard was killed as rebel mortars slammed in and around the capital on Lake Tanganyika, the source said.

In the past week, dozens of people were killed when the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebels traded mortar and gunfire on the outskirts of Bujumbura as fighting in the tiny central African country's 7-year war intensified.

The conflict erupted in October 1993 after Tutsi paratroopers assassinated Burundi's first democratically elected president, a Hutu.

Although in the minority, Tutsis have effectively controlled Burundi for all but four months since independence from Belgium in 1962.

Talks aimed at implementing a peace accord - signed last August by 17 Hutu and Tutsi political parties, the government and the military - are making little progress because participants cannot agree on who will head the three-year transitional government.

The rebels have not participated in the peace process and the accord does not provide for a cease-fire.

However, on Friday, Mark Bomani, chief aide to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who has been mediating efforts to end the fighting, said representatives from the army and two main rebel groups would hold their first direct talks next week.

The talks will be held in South Africa, but Bomani refused to say when the talks would begin.

Observers say the peace agreement cannot be implemented until the rebels are involved in the process and at there is at least a cessation of hostilities.

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