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Rwandan forces killing suspects without trial: HRW
by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) July 13, 2017

Soldier killed in attack in Nigeria's oil-rich south
Warri, Nigeria (AFP) July 13, 2017 - One soldier was killed and several others injured in an attack on military personnel in Nigeria's oil-rich south, a security source said on Thursday, in the second incident this month in the restive region.

The attack happened in the early hours of Thursday in the Ogbogbagbene community, southwest of the Delta state capital Warri, according to locals.

A source at Nigeria's Department of State Security intelligence agency said it was not immediately clear whether those responsible were "militants or just hoodlums".

"But they killed a soldier, injured others and carted away arms and ammunition, as well as a military gunboat," he said, adding that the injured were being treated in hospital.

There was no immediate response from the military joint task force that handles security in the region when contacted by AFP.

One woman who lives locally said people "heard gunshots by the waterside where the army formation is stationed at about 2:00 am (0100 GMT) this morning, only to realise that the army was under attack".

Angodi Akpo, who sits on the Burutu local council, said the community was "under siege" because of fears of reprisals.

"Everyone is apprehensive and is locked indoors over the likely action of the military following the attack, as the security operatives are harassing innocent residents in the guise of searching for the culprits," he added.

Twelve days ago two soldiers were killed at Sapele in Delta state, where there was also a similar attack in May that left four marine police officers dead.

The Niger Delta region, which includes Delta state, is home to Nigeria's multi-billion-dollar oil and gas industry and has frequently been hit by unrest.

Militants have periodically mounted attacks on oil and gas infrastructure as part of their calls for a fairer share of profits from the sector for local people, most of whom live in dire poverty.

After repeated attacks in 2016 that hit oil production, the government initiated talks with rebels, leading to a fragile truce and promises of improvements in the impoverished region.

The soldiers came at dawn to Fulgence Rukundo's house in a village in western Rwanda, and accused him of stealing a cow.

They draped slabs of the dead cow's carcass around his shoulders and positioned the animal's head on his before marching him into a banana plantation and shooting him dead, according to witnesses cited in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on extrajudicial killings released Thursday.

An investigation by the rights group alleges that Rwandan security forces executed at least 37 suspected petty offenders, including Rukundo, instead of prosecuting them. Another four have allegedly disappeared.

Rwanda's Justice Minister Johnston Busingye slammed the report as "clearly fake", saying HRW had been "duped".

"Rwanda will continue to tell her own story, as befits Rwandans," he wrote on his Twitter account.

According to HRW, the wave of documented extrajudicial killings took place between July 2016 and March 2017 in western Rwanda and appeared to be part of an official strategy to "spread fear, enforce order and deter any resistance to government orders or policies."

- 'New orders' -

"In most of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, local military and civilian authorities told residents after the execution, often during public meetings, that they were following 'new orders' or a 'new law' stating that all thieves and other criminals in the region would be arrested and executed," the report says.

Despite occurring in front of multiple witnesses, the killings have not been discussed in Rwanda, where the media has been muzzled and local rights groups are afraid to speak out, according to HRW.

After being taken from his home, Rukundo was first marched to a public meeting, with hundreds of villagers following the grisly spectacle, where the mayor accused him of stealing the cow.

"All thieves must be killed," the mayor said, according to a witness at the meeting, before signing a piece of paper along with the soldiers who then took him away and shot him, the report says.

One resident from the Rubavu district told HRW that warnings were delivered in regular community meetings, an important part of village life in Rwanda.

"In 2016, the authorities started saying things in meetings like, 'We will kill people we catch stealing'," the report cited the witness as saying.

Others killed without a trial were accused of stealing bananas, sugarcane or a motorcycle.

According to the report, based on 119 interviews with family members, witnesses, officials and others, at least 11 men were killed for using illegal nets while fishing on Lake Kivu in Rubavu.

- Families silenced by fear -

HRW also documented the case of two men who were killed by civilians after being encouraged to do so by local authorities.

Family members were left terrified and warned to keep silent.

One widow, taken to the body of her husband after he was in the forest, said: "The soldiers told us not to be sad and not to cry. They said if we dared to cry, we would risk being shot."

Another witness to the killings told HRW: "We have no right to free expression. If we talk about this, we will end up in prison or disappear."

Rwanda has been held up as an African success story for advances in its economy, infrastructure and security since the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed.

But alarm has risen in recent years over a crackdown on freedoms and opposition groups.

A report by Amnesty International last week warned that two decades of repression had created a "climate of fear" ahead of next month's presidential election.

3 killed in north Mali clashes as UN condemns violence
Bamako (AFP) July 6, 2017
Clashes between armed groups killed three people in northeastern Mali on Thursday, a security source told AFP, as the United Nations condemned repeated ceasefire violations by the combatants. Mali's north is controlled in parts by armed groups loyal to Bamako and in others by former rebels who want greater autonomy for the region, while the state is absent from much of the territory. "At ... read more

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