Pope Assails Massacre of Refugees in Burundi

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II condemned the attack on a camp of Congolese Tutsi refugees in Burundi, in which at least 180 people died, most of them women and children.

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The massacre Friday night left some 111 wounded in a camp managed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The camp sheltered about 3,000 civilians in Gatumba, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Bujumbura, near the Congolese border.

In a message sent Sunday to Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the apostolic nuncio in Burundi, the Pope said he “unites himself to the prayer of the persons affected by this tragedy” and “commends the deceased to the Lord’s mercy.”

The telegram, sent in the Holy Father’s name by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, encourages “the aid and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in their important mission to care for the wounded and offer assistance to the families and refugees of the region.”

According to U.N. sources, the refugees are Congolese of the Tutsi tribe, known as Banyamulenge, who have fled from the border area of South Kivu, where clashes are occurring between insurgents and government troops.

The National Liberation Forces, a rebel faction of the Hutu tribe in Burundi, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its combatants were pursuing Burundi soldiers hiding in the refugees’ camp.

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