Rwandan rebel accused of killing eight foreign tourists

A pathologist testifying Tuesday in the trial of a Rwandan rebel accused of killing eight foreign tourists and their guide in a famed Ugandan gorilla reserve described the horrific wounds suffered by the victims. Rwandan rebels hacked and bludgeoned the tourists from the United States, Britain and New Zealand in a remote rain forest near Uganda's borders with Congo and Rwanda. The rebels said they were targeting English-speaking people in a bid to weaken U.S. and British support for the Rwandan government.

The United States and Britain were the largest donors to Rwanda's new government, which was rebuilding after a 100-day genocide of more than 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists. Dr. Henry Wabinga told the High Court Tuesday that the bodies of five of the victims of the 1999 gorilla reserve attack had broken skulls, hacked brains, stab wounds, compound fractures and extensive burns.

Reports on the deaths of the remaining four victims could not be presented because pathologists who examined them were unavailable on the last day of testimony by prosecution witnesses against former rebel Jean-Paul Bizimana, Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Simon Mugenyi told The Associated Press.

Bizimana, 30, has pleaded not guilty. He could face the death penalty if convicted. Bizimana is a former member of the Rwandan army, which played a key role in the country's 1994 genocide. He was first arrested in 1999 in Uganda and was detained until 2001 on suspicion that he was involved in the killing of the Western tourists, his defense lawyer said.

He was then deployed with Ugandan troops who were backing rebels operating in eastern Congo. He worked with the army until Uganda withdrew its soldiers from Congo in 2003.

Bizimana, who was then seeking asylum, was re-arrested last year near Uganda's border with Rwanda to face nine counts of murder.

The victims were Rob Haubner and his wife, Susan Miller, of Portland, Oregon; Rhonda Avis, 27, and Michelle Strathern, 26, of New Zealand; Martin Friend, 24, Steven Robert, 27, and Mark Lindgren, 23, of Britain; Joanne Cotton, a driver for the London-based outfitter that organized the trip; and Ugandan guide Ross Wagaba.

Three other Rwandan rebels were arrested in March 2003 and sent to the United States to stand trial in the deaths of the two Americans. They were identified as Leonidas Bimenyiamana, 34; Francois Karake, 38; and Gregoire Nyaminami, 32. They could face the death penalty if convicted, reports the AP. I.L.

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