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Rwandan panel says army shot down president"s jet
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 12 - 01 - 2010

Rwandan Hutu army soldiers shot down the Hutu president"s plane on the eve of the country"s 1994 genocide, according to a government-commissioned inquiry that assigns blame for the event that sparked the slaughter of more than a half million people, AP reported.
President Juvenal Habyarimana had been returning from talks held with a rebel group, and the soldiers and extremist Hutu politicians and military officers were opposed to a power-sharing deal, the panel said in a report made public late Monday.
«Through repeated and unequivocal warnings, they indicated to him that his acceptance to implement the agreement would be signing for his own death and this is exactly what happened,» the report said.
The panel of experts reached its conclusion after interviewing more than 500 people, including Rwandan and foreign military officers who were on duty when Habyarimana"s plane was shot down on April 6, 1994.
After the attack, militants from the Hutu ethnic majority, known as Interahamwe, quickly set up roadblocks across the capital, Kigali, and on April 7 began killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Rwanda formed the panel in October 2007, almost a year after a French judicial investigation accused the current president, Paul Kagame, of ordering Habyarimana"s assassination. The Rwandan panel was led by Jean Mutsinzi, a judge of Rwanda"s Supreme Court. Other panel members include Rwandan legal experts and former government officials.
The French judiciary is looking into the downing of Habyarimana"s plane because the crew was French. Prominent former French investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who began the probe, also accused nine other ranking Rwandans of plotting the attack. He issued arrest warrants for the nine but not Kagame because France grants immunity to heads of state.
That decision led to the deterioration of already tense relations between France and Rwanda over the European nation"s role in the 1994 genocide. Rwanda cut off diplomatic relations with France in 2006 over the French investigation. Diplomatic ties were restored three years later, in November.
The Rwandan panel concluded that the Tutsi rebels fighting Habyarimana _ a group led by Kagame _ could not have shot down the plane. The report reached the conclusion based on witnesses who described seeing or hearing what looked or sounded like missiles being fired from inside or near a military barracks in an area heavily guarded by the army.
The report also said that as part of the peace process a group of rebels were in the capital but under the guard of a U.N. peacekeeping mission and their movements were closely monitored.
More than 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred in 100 days of frenzied killing led by the extremist Hutus. The killing stopped when Kagame"s Rwanda Patriotic Front toppled the Hutu extremists.
-- SPA


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