Canadian priest is shot dead during Mass in Rwandan church

 

AN unidentified gunman shot dead a Canadian priest during Mass in north western Rwanda, a Canadian diplomat and Rwandan officials said.

Father Guy Pinard (61) was shot as he was celebrating Communion at his parish church in Kampanga village, 20km north of the north west regional capital of Ruhengeri.

Rwandan officials speculated that the killing was carried out by Hut us who returned late last year from Zaire or Tanzania and feared he would recognise and denounce them as killers during the three month genocide of an estimated 800,000 people in 1994.

Mr Claude Dusaidi, an adviser to the Vice President and Defence Minister, Maj Gen Paul Kagame, said Father Picard, a missionary with the White Fathers, had lived in Rwanda for more than 30 years, remaining during the genocide.

The Canadian consul, Mr Gerald Ohlsen, confirmed the killing and said there were probably more than 200 Canadians resident in Rwanda. He said that all nonessential workers had previously been advised to leave the country. "We will now consider issuing another type of warning," he added.

Father Pinard's death was first announced by Pope John Paul, who told pilgrims in St Peter's Square that he had been "barbarically assassinated this morning while celebrating Mass at his parish church". He added: "Let us pray to the Holy Virgin for him, for those who are dear to him and for his people, that they may again find peace and respect for life."

Father Pinard was from Trois Rivieres in Quebec. A spokesman for the White Fathers in Rome said that the priest had been in Rwanda since 1962. The order was seeking further details about the circumstances of the killing.

Suspected Hutu militiamen killed three Spanish aid workers in cold blood in the town of Ruhengeri two weeks ago and wounded an American in the leg in an attack on the compound where they lived.

Gunmen stormed a house where the aid workers were staying and demanded their passports before shooting the three Spaniards - two men and a woman nurse - at close range in the head.

Rwandan officials said troops killed some 80 people in a crackdown in Ruhengeri prefecture following the killings.

After the attack, the UN said aid work in Ruhengeri would be limited to the daytime and expatriate workers would not be allowed to spend a night in the city, close to Zaire's border.

A UN report said on Friday Hutu death squads were killing Tutsi survivors of genocide and witnesses, who were forced to move out of remote areas to places near army positions and towns in search of security.

The report by the UN human rights office said survivors were being hunted down in their homes, intimidated, threatened and sometimes poisoned in remote areas of the country bordering Zaire.

The UN report said that at least 227 genocide survivors were killed in 1996, when attacks against them rose sharply, and urged Rwanda to take measures to protect them. Hutu militia among 600,000 refugees who returned from Zaire late in 1996 were behind some of the attacks, the report said.

The mass influx from eastern Zaire and the expulsion of half a million Hutu refugees in Tanzania by troops in December have increased ethnic tensions in Rwanda.