Bishop Kidnapped in Burundi Is Released

Taken Captive by Mistake, Says Nuncio

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ROME, MAY 23, 2002 ( Bishop Joseph Nduhirubusa of Ruyigi, kidnapped last weekend by rebels, has been released, a Church official in Burundi said.

The bishop had been taken captive Saturday in the Kibira forest while returning by car to Ruyigi. Two security officers were killed by rebels during the kidnapping.

Archbishop Aidan Courtney, the apostolic nuncio in the central African republic, told Vatican Radio that the Forces for the Defense of Democracy released the bishop unconditionally this morning.

«I myself received the bishop from the hands of the rebels in the village of Bubanza,» the nuncio said from Bujumbura, the capital. «The bishop is here; he is well, but totally exhausted as he has been traveling for five days.»

The bishop, who is now staying in the nunciature, was welcomed by the country´s bishops.

According to the nuncio, «It has been made very clear that, when the rebels carried out the ambush, they did not know it was a bishop. It seems that the military men who accompanied the bishop caught the attention of the rebels, who shot and killed them. Then they realized that the passenger was a bishop.»

«From the beginning they made it clear that they did not wish to harm the bishop, and they respected this commitment,» Archbishop Courtney said.

A civil war has been under way in Burundi since 1993, which confronts two Hutu rebel movements and the army, controlled by the Tutsi minority. So far, the conflict in this country of 6.2 million has resulted in over 250,000 dead, mostly civilians.

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