Arusha, April 2, 2004 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Thursday declared before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that the former military commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, had in April 1994, led an attack against Tutsi refugees claiming they were rebels. The protected witness code-named “DBN” testified in the so-called “Military I” trial where Nsengiyumva and three other senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) are accused for their alleged roles in the genocide.

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He is the 50th witness to testify since the trial began in April 2002. DBN declared that after the plane carrying president Habyarimana was shot down on April 6, 1994, Nsengiyumva went to Kanombe (Kigali) “to ask for soldiers to take to Masaka as there were Inkotanyi (Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels) there”. The former commander of the Para-commando battalion based in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, one of those accused with Nsengiyumva allegedly deployed a platoon of thirty soldiers and a military vehicle. “When they came back, soldiers who had taken part in that operation told me that they had lied to them”, said DBN. “It was not the Inkotanyi but Tutsis who were hiding in the coffee plantation and nearby houses”. “There was no fighting, the Tutsis were attacked by grenades”, pointed DBN, without indicating the number of victims. DBN continued to say that the Para-commando battalion of which he was a member, had fled Kanombe at the end of April ahead of the advancing RPF. It crossed the border in July 1994. When he arrived at Mugunga refugee camp with his men, Ntabakuze allegedly urged them to keep their morale and not disperse, assuring them that they would regain their territory “with the help of the French”. French soldiers were based in south-west Rwanda at that time under the UN authorised humanitarian operation baptised “Turquoise”. The mission ended August 22, 1994. Anatole Nsengiyumva and Aloys Ntabakuze are jointly charged with the former director of Cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, and the former head of military operations of the army, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi. All have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that have levelled against them. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway, Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. It will continue on Monday. KN/GA/CE/FH(ML''0402e)