Volcano erupts close to abandoned refugee camps


EASTERN Zaire's Nyamulagira volcano erupted yesterday close to camps abandoned by Rwandan Hutu refugees, spewing jets of lava high into the air and forming a lava trail 10km long through forests.

A Reuter correspondent who travelled to Rumangabe, north of the deserted refugee camps of Kahindo and Katale, saw about 10km of burning forest in the Virunga national park left by boiling lava as it moved north westwards.

Kahindo and Katale were home to thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees but they fled six weeks ago ahead of a military advance by Rwandan backed Zairean rebels who now control much of eastern Zaire.

A UN refugee agency spokesman in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, said the eruption posed no threat to the human population as the area was abandoned weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Zaire has accused Uganda of attacking its territory around the eastern town of Kasindi as the conflict gripping the Great Lakes region of Central Africa looked set to widen.

"The Ugandans attacked Zairean army positions at Kasindi," said Zaire's Information Minister, Mr Boguo Makeli.

A senior Ugandan official said Ugandan forces had shelled positions held by rebels near Kasindi but denied Ugandan newspaper reports that Ugandan troops had crossed the border and seized the town on Thursday.

In neighbouring Burundi, the main Hutu rebel group said yesterday its forces were engaging army positions in five main regions of the central African nation and fierce fighting was sending thousands of refugees streaming into Tanzania.

A rebel spokesman said fighting was raging in the provinces of Kayanza, rural Bujumbnra, Bururi, Rutana and Ruyigi.