French judge indicts Rwandan minister, army chiefs: source

16th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French judge has indicted Rwanda's defence minister and five other associates of the country's president in a probe into the 1994 assassination of a Rwandan president, a source close to the probe said Thursday.

The six, who include a general and a lieutenant-colonel, were informed of the indictments against them while in Burundi earlier this month and have been allowed to remain at liberty, the source said.

The French anti-terror judge Marc Trevidic is probing the 1994 downing of a plane carrying Rwanda's then president Juvenal Habyarimana because the crew of the aircraft were French nationals.

The killing of Habyarimana, who was travelling with his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira, is believed to have triggered the 1994 genocide which claimed the lives of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Rwanda cut off diplomatic relations with France in 2006 because of the long-running French probe but restored them a year ago.

French experts probing the downing of the plane wound up their task of hearing witness testimonies and visiting key Kigali sites in September this year.

The five-member team including two anti-terrorism judges -- Trevidic and Nathalie Poux -- surveyors, ballistics, explosives and fire experts sought to determine the origin of missiles that downed the plane.

Pre-genocide Hutu extremists and Tutsi rebels are both suspected of being behind the April 6, 1994 shooting of the Falcon 50 craft.

The French team suspect a commando unit of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels of infiltrating the Rwandan Hutu army and firing two missiles from Masaka hill east of the runway where the plane was coming in to land.

But the RPF government now in power in Kigali blames the attack on Hutu extremists within the FAR national army seeking to eliminate Habyarimana in order to launch a coup.

The two presidents were returning from a summit in neighbouring Tanzania to revamp a 1993 peace deal aimed at setting up a transitional government and integrate the RPF rebels.

© 2010 AFP

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