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Nuncio shocked by international silence after Burundi massacre

The papal nuncio in the troubled central African nation is disappointed that a massacre of possibly more than 1000 civilians has caused little international outcry.

"I am stunned by the silence surrounding the Itaba hills massacre," said the nuncio, Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney. The Catholic Church and its media appear to be virtually alone in reporting the scope of the killings that occurred on 9 September.

Numerous civilians, the majority women and children, were killed in Itaba, in the province of Gitega in central Burundi.

"I am surprised by the international silence, although the European Union is following the matter closely," Archbishop Courtney told the Misna missionary agency.

The Vatican diplomat indicated that the first public news of the event was given by the authorities nine days later.

The nuncio said the silence is inexplicable, "given that both the government and the army report promptly on the outcome of guerrillas' actions, broadcasting bulletins on the war every afternoon from one or another area of the country."

The Burundi government denied the version of events given to some news agencies by army spokesman Colonel Augustin Nzabampema. He admitted the army's involvement in the killings.

The government Ministry of Information reported that 173 people died, specifying that the civilians died during the fighting between the army and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) guerrillas. Burundi has 6.2 million people.

Sources consulted by Misna give another version of the events. One source close to the political realm sent the agency a list of telephone numbers of survivors and relatives of the victims.

Burundi probes village mass killing (CNN 18/9/02)
Government investigating massacre of 183 people (UN Irin Info. service 19/9/02)
Itaba massacre: toll of bodies found rises to 1250 (MISNA 18/9/02)
Itaba massacre: Apostolic Nuncio, "I am shocked at silence over what occurred" (21/9/02)


26 Sep 2002