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Kidnapped African bishop feared executed

A Catholic bishop has been kidnapped in the central African republic of Burundi and it is feared that he may have been executed.

Evariste Nduhirubusa, Bishop of Ruyigi, went missing as he crossed the Kibira forest, a notoriously dangerous part of the country controlled by the Forces for the Defence of Burundi rebel movement. Two of his bodyguards were found shot dead, raising fears for his safety. Six years ago, Archbishop Joahhin Ruhuna was killed by FDD gunmen after a similar kidnapping.

Burundi, one of Africa's most beautiful but violent countries, has been riven by fighting, mainly between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus, for almost 10 years. Vast areas of the country are no-go zones and even in the capital, Bujumbura, rebel forces have turned some suburbs into killing fields.

Meanwhile, in the west African nation of Liberia, rebels say they believe their fighters are holding a British Catholic priest who went missing during fighting last week.

Fr Garry Jenkins disappeared a week ago along with 60 blind people he was caring for at his church compound in Bomi, about 60 km north of Monrovia, Catholic radio reported on Sunday.

Rebels trying to oust President Charles Taylor have attacked towns in central Liberia and near the coastal capital Monrovia in the latest phase of a regional war that has ravaged a diamond-rich corner of West Africa since the late 1980s.

Rebel spokesman William Hanson told Reuters by phone that a group of rebel fighters was travelling north on foot towards their headquarters in the northern town of Voinjama with a man he believed to be Jenkins.

"The white guy who was taken from Bomi is safe," Hanson said. "Everything is being done to make sure he gets to safety ... I've given strict instructions for them to bring him (to Voinjama)," he said on Monday.

Hanson, himself a Catholic with a seminary education, said he had been taught by Jenkins at school in the 1980s.

"He's like a parent to me," Hanson said. " I want to see him physically before I get in contact with the bishop."

Catholics in Monrovia say Jenkins has been in Liberia for decades, earning considerable respect for staying to help people throughout a bloody seven-year civil war in the 1990s in which up to 200,000 people were killed.

Rebels Kidnap Catholic Bishop (All Africa)

Daily Telegraph/Reuters

21 May 2002