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Chinese embassy in Burundi hit by mortar shell
( 2003-11-11 09:59) (chinadaily.com.cn)

Rebel forces bombarded Burundi's capital Monday with rockets, killing five people, destroying part of the Chinese Embassy and striking the home of a U.S. military attache, officials said.

Rebel fighters attacked two northern neighborhoods of Bujumbura, including an area where diplomats and senior government officials live.

A map of Burundi

A diplomatic sources said an office building of the Chinese Embassy in Bujumbura was mishit by a mortar shell. There were no reports of casualties in the Chinese embassy, but the home of a Chinese diplomat living inside the embassy compound was destroyed by a rocket.

Chinese Ambassador Feng Zhijun told reporters that fighters from the anti-government FNL fired ten mortar shells at the capital, with three of them hitting the presidential palace and another one hitting the neighboring Chinese embassy. An 80-centimeter hole was blasted open in the embassy's ceiling.

After the bombing, Burundi's Defense Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye and Foreign Ministry officials inspected the scene and expressed regret.

The attack was claimed by the National Liberation Forces (FNL), a Hutu rebel group, and took place a fortnight before the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD), a larger rebel group which has signed a ceasefire and power-sharing deal with the government, was due to join the ranks of an enlarged administration.

During the attack, four civilians were killed, including a young girl and three boys, before the rebels withdrew into the hills north and east of the capital.

Another civilian was killed when the rebels fired four rockets into the wealthy Kiriri neighborhood. The home of a Chinese diplomat living inside that country's embassy compound was destroyed by a rocket, and an automobile belonging to the U.S. military attache was destroyed when a rocket hit his home.

The National Liberation Front and Forces for the Defense of Democracy are the two main Hutu rebel groups in the central African nation.

Hutus are fighting for a greater share of power. The country has long been run by the Tutsi minority. More than 200,000 people have died in the 10-year civil war, mostly civilians.

Pasteur Habimana, a rebel spokesman, said the attack was in retaliation for army assaults on rebel positions in the hills overlooking the capital.

"We have no other option, we have been attacked for two weeks. If the army want to occupy our positions, we will occupy theirs in the capital in return," Habimana said.

China urges Burundi to guarantee diplomats' safety

The Chinese government urged Burundi to take effective measures to guarantee the safety of the Chinese embassy and its personnel, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao Tuesday.

At a regular press conference, Liu said that one office building of the Chinese Embassy in Bujumbura was accidentally hit by a mortar shell and damaged to a certain extent during the fierce fighting between the Burundian government army and the Forces for National Liberation's rebels, which broke out early Monday morning in Burundi's capital Bujumbura.

"Fortunately nobody was killed or injured," added the spokesman.

Attaching great importance to this issue, Liu noted that the central Chinese leadership asked the foreign ministry to find out details and extend sympathy to the embassy staff.

The Chinese embassy officials took up the matter with the related Burundi department, and Burundi defense minister and officials of the Burundi foreign ministry also went to the spot and promised to beef up the defense of the embassy.

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