French aid worker killed in Burundi
French aid agency announced Tuesday it was suspending its operations in Burundi
BUJUMBURA, January 1, 2008 - A French aid agency announced Tuesday it was suspending its operations in Burundi after one of its employees was killed by a gunman and another badly injured in the eastern part of the country.
Police said three French women who worked for the French aid group Action
Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger) were escorting two Burundian colleagues
to the regional headquarters in Ruyigi province, when a gunman opened fire
"Unfortunately one of the two (wounded) women succumbed to her injuries on
the way to hospital," police spokesman Pierre Chanel Ntarabaganyi told AFP,
adding that an investigation had been launched.
The wounded woman was being evacuated late Tuesday for treatment in South
Africa, a French diplomat told AFP.
Officials identified the woman killed as a 31-year-old psychologist and
said another employee along two Burundians emerged unhurt from the shooting.
The agency also said it was temporarily suspending all its operations in
the central African nation until more information was available about the
incident, but had no immediate plans to evacuate its staff.
"Our teams have been on the ground for several years, we absolutely don't
understand what could have happened," head Francois Danel said in a statement,
adding the incident took place before nightfall and the employees' vehicle was
clearly marked with the agency's logo.
He said it was the first time the group had been targeted in Burundi since
launching its operations in 1994.
"We don't know if we were targeted as a humanitarian agency, if as Action
Against Hunger we found ourselves under fire or by accident. It's impossible
to say. There are several hypotheses," Danel separately told France's Europe 1
A radio reporter on the scene said witnesses described two assailants who
appeared to be waiting for the agency's vehicle at a bend, before firing at it
from two sides.
"They fled after that without trying to steal anything...as if the whole
operation had been aimed to kill," reporter Balthazar Miburo said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on the Burundi authorities to "do
everything possible to get to the bottom of this crime," an appeal echoed by
his foreign minister.
In a statement Sarkozy "strongly condemned" the attack and sent his
condolences to the family and friends of the victims.
He also paid tribute to the "brave and generous commitment of French
volunteers who step in to help disadvantaged people in often difficult
Crime is on the rise in the eastern Ruyigi region, about 170 kilometres
(105 miles) from Bujumbura, where six people have been killed in the past 10
days, according to the police.
The Burundi police are under pressure to crack down on soaring incidents of
murder, armed robbery and other attacks.
The tiny country is struggling to emerge from a civil war which erupted in
1993 and killed some 300,000 people, and its unity government elected in 2005
is facing obstacles in achieving stability.