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Rwandan army says it has eight Hutu rebels in custody
Fri Nov 1, 6:28 AM ET

By RODRIQUE NGOWI, Associated Press Writer

KIGALI, Rwanda - The Rwandan army said Friday it had eight Hutu rebels in custody not the 20 rebel leaders Congolese and rebel officials claimed were handed over.

Three of the eight Hutu rebels expelled from Congo were higher-ranking political officers, like the public relations chief, said Maj. Jill Rutaremara, a Rwandan army spokesman.

However, the other five who were thrown out of Congo claimed to be lower ranking troops four of them said they were privates and the fifth said he was a 2nd Lieutenant, Rutaremara said.

Regardless, Rwandan authorities are still working to verify the identities and background of all eight, he said.

Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, confirmed that eight Hutu rebels had been handed over to the Rwandans, but did not provide any additional details

On Thursday, Congolese and rebel officials said that 20 Hutu rebel leaders had been forcibly sent back to Rwanda. The expulsions took place on Monday, when the men were caught trying to flee the country, they said.

Rwanda accuses Congo of sheltering thousands of Rwandan Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide that killed at least 500,000 Rwandans, most of them members of the Tutsi minority.

Repatriating the Hutu rebels is a key part of a July peace accord between Congo and Rwanda. The peace pact is one of a series of new deals meant to end the war in Congo, which has killed 2.5 million people by aid groups' count.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila were scheduled to meet Friday in South Africa to review implementation of the peace deal.

The war started in 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda backed Congolese rebels in a bid to overthrow then-Congo President Laurent Kabila. Rwanda and Uganda accused Kabila of sheltering militias, including the Rwandan Hutus, that threatened their own security.

The war drew in more than a half-dozen nations, with Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sending troops on behalf of the government.

Congo's government says the last of those allied troops were withdrawing this week. Rwanda has said all its troops were withdrawn last month.

Despite the Rwandan withdrawal, Congo has still not dismantled the Hutu rebel's military and has made no moves to repatriate key rebel leaders, Rutaremara said.

The eight expelled by Congo are "a drop in the ocean in terms of numbers and significance," he said.

The rebels will take part in a demobilization program before they are allowed to return to their villages and rejoin their families, Rutaremara said.

However, if any are accused of participating in the 1994 genocide, they will be tried, he said.