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Burundi’s president claims Rwanda is backing rebels fighting against his country

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Burundi’s president on Friday accused Rwanda of funding and training rebels behind an attack last week on the village of Gatumba, close to Burundi’s border with Congo, that killed at least 20 people.

A Burundian armed rebel group known as RED-Tabara and based in South Kivu, eastern Congo, took responsibility for the attack in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The group, which denied having targeted civilians, claimed to have killed nine soldiers and a police officer.

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Burundian authorities consider RED-Tabara a terrorist movement. The group first appeared in 2011 and has been accused of a string of attacks in Burundi since 2015.

In a national radio broadcast, President Evariste Ndayishimiye claimed the RED-Tabara “are fed, sheltered, hosted and maintained in terms of logistics and financial means by … Rwanda.”

Ndayishimiye said Burundi has been unsuccessfully negotiating with Rwanda for two years, seeking the extradition of the rebels.

Burundi claims Rwandan-backed rebels are behind a recent attack on the town of Gatumba. (Fox News)

“As long as they have a country that provides them with uniforms, feeds them, protects them, shelters them, maintains them, we will have problems,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction from Rwanda’s government to Ndayishimiye’s accusations but it has previously said that it cannot extradite people who are under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency.

Relations between the two central African neighbors improved with the ascension to power of Ndayishimiye in June 2020 and borders between them reopened.

Some of those killed in the Gatumba attack — which Burundi has described as an act of terror and said it had contacted Interpol to seek its help in apprehending the perpetrators — were buried on Tuesday.

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In August last year, Burundi deployed soldiers to eastern Congo as part of a regional force invited by Congo to tackle the resurgence of the M23 rebel group there. Some observers believed that the Burundi troops from the seven-nation East African Community force would be used to crush RED-Tabara.

However, the East African Regional force is currently being withdrawn in phases from the violence-plagued eastern Congo following complaints from locals and authorities that instead of disarming the rebels, the forces were cohabiting with them.

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