Rebel group steps up attacks

Attacks by the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Force pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD) rebel faction led by Pierre Nkurunziza have increased in several areas in Burundi, the latest being the abduction on Monday of a local official in Kayanza Province to the north of the country.

Kayanza Governor Edouard Nkurunziza told IRIN that the rebels had abducted the administrator of Gatara Commune, Hermenegilde Manirambona.

"They kidnapped and took him to an unknown destination. We also heard that his wife was kidnapped," Nkurunziza said. "Security forces are now seeking ways of saving them," he added.

The rebels also recently abducted the administrator of Rusaka Commune in Mwaro Province, Etienne Bigirimana, and later freed him after he paid an unidentified amount of ransom money.

Another administrator, Louis Niyonzima of Mutimbuzi Commune in the province of Bujumbura Rural, was reported to have escaped on Sunday from an CNDD-FDD assassination attempt. The rebels killed Niyonzima's bodyguard.

Over the 14-15 June weekend, Member of Parliament Gerard Buryo was killed in a rebel attack at a pub in southern province of Makamba. Local authorities said CNDD-FDD rebels were responsible for the killing.

Beside the abductions and assassination of political authorities, the rebels have intensified ambushes of passenger vehicles along roads. During such attacks the rebels rob passengers of their money and other valuables and at times kidnap them.

Home Affairs and Public Security Minister Salvator Ntihabose has condemned the kidnappings. He said the government would soon announce its response.

"The rebels had declared that they have launched a social war, we never understood what they meant by this," he said. "They have changed their tactic, they avoid any contact with the government army, they plunder social infrastructure and kill or kidnap local administrative officials, this is unacceptable."

Rebel attacks have continued despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the group and the government on 3 December 2002.

The last meeting between CNDD-FDD and government officials, which took place in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, on Friday and Saturday, ended without any agreement.

The meeting had been convened to solve disagreements over some points in the December ceasefire accord. These issues include the cantonment of rebel troops, disarmament and integration of CNDD-FDD fighters into the country's security forces.

The facilitation team indicated that a final decision on the contentious issues would be made during a regional summit on Burundi, due to take place any time between 20 June and 14 July at a venue yet to be decided.