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Burundi issues arrest warrants around 1993 assassination

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 file photo, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra, right, talks with United Nations High Representative for Mali Pierre Buyoya during a ministerial meeting of the support and follow-up group on the situation in Mali, at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium. Burundi's attorney general late Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 issued 17 international arrest warrants for people suspected of involvement in the assassination of the country's first democratically elected president, naming Pierre Buyoya, now the high representative of the African Union. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Burundi’s attorney general has issued 17 international arrest warrants for former senior military and civilian officials suspected of involvement in the assassination of the country’s first democratically elected president.

At the top of the list is former president Pierre Buyoya, now the high representative of the African Union. He has not reacted publicly.

Attorney General Sylvestre Nyandwi said the suspects allegedly were involved in the planning and execution of the killing of Melchior Ndadaye in 1993. It sparked a civil war between the East African nation’s two dominant ethnic groups, the Hutu and Tutsi, in which an estimated 300,000 people died.

Regarded by many in Burundi as the hero of democracy and the country’s first elected Hutu leader, Ndadaye was killed in an attempted coup by hard-line Tutsi soldiers four months after Buyoya, a Tutsi, stepped down.

Buyoya, who ruled Burundi from 1987 to 1993 and from 1996 to 2005, has denied any role in the killing.

In events marking 25 years since the assassination in October, Burundi’s justice minister told lawmakers that those suspected had held powerful positions for many years, delaying efforts at accountability.

The lawyer defending Ndadaye’s family, Fabien Segatwa, called the announcement “a great step towards justice.”

Burundi remains in political turmoil around President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to seek another term.

Isidore Rufyikiri, former chairman of the Burundian lawyers’ association, told The Associated Press that the fight against impunity is good but “we should wait to deal with those cases until Burundi retrieves peace and security.”

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Ssuuna reported from Kigali, Rwanda.

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