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Hutu rebels free Burundi Bishop

Hutu rebels yesterday freed the Catholic Bishop of Ruyigi in Burundi, whom they seized in an ambush six days ago, according to the Missionary Service News Agency, MISNA.

Bishop Joseph Nduhirubusa was handed over to the papal nuncio in Burundi, Monsignor Michael Courtney, in a village near to the city of Bubanza, some 31 km north of the capital Bujumbura. Courtney described Nduhirubusa as being exhausted, but "in good condition".

The rebels, the Forces pour la defence de la democratie, seized Nduhirubusa and his driver on Saturday as they drove through the Kabire forest toward Ruyigi, in the east of the country. The rebels shot dead two government army escorts. However, in a communiqué announcing the abduction, the FDD said they had taken Nduhirubusa "to guarantee his safety" since there was a war on in the country.

Meanwhile the fate of British missionary Fr Gary Jenkins, who reportedly went missing in the northwestern Liberian town of Tubmanburg, during a recent seizure of the town by rebel forces, is still unknown.

The Catholic-owned Radio Veritas reported early this week that the Church has lost contact with the priest.

Jenkins has lived in Tubmanburg for more than 20 years, and reportedly went missing along with 60 displaced blind people.

A spokesman for the LURD rebels could not confirm nor deny the abduction of the priest, but he told the BBC that a "white man" was abducted to their control area along with some 60 displaced people.

Concerns have also been raised in Monrovia about the condition of 60 displaced blind people who are reported to have gone missing along with Fr Jenkins.

All Africa/All Africa

24 May 2002