UN Soldiers Flee Rwanda in Terror

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Terrified UN soldiers scrambled aboard planes evacuating Kigali on Wednesday as the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda neared total collapse amid bloody chaos in which a human rights agency said up to 100,000 have died.

Shouting at each other and mumbling prayers, 252 Bangladeshi peacekeepers squashed into planes loaded with dozens of UN military observers and refugees. Many, murmuring verses from the Koran, had to stand.

UN officers said they had been told the rest of a force once 2,500-strong would soon quit the central African country, ripped apart by civil war and tribal savagery.

They said the decision had been triggered by the refusal of government forces to hand the airport over to neutral UN control. Some 250 UN "blue helmets" would stay in a final attempt to broker an end to two weeks of bloodletting.

"If they (the warring parties) do not reach an agreement on a cease-fire it must be very clear we shall not stay here," UN special envoy to Rwanda Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh said late Tuesday.

Asked whether the UN was prepared to abandon Rwanda, gripped by an orgy of ethnic killings since president Juvenal Habyarimana died in a plane crash on April 6, Booh-Booh said: "We came to assist Rwanda, but we cannot impose any solution on the Rwandan people, who have to help us to help them."

Thousands of civilians who have taken refuge in hotels and other compounds protected by UN soldiers in downtown Kigali will be left defenseless if the peacekeepers go, say witnesses.

"Another round of bloodletting is inevitable," said one.

Rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, sensing they are close to victory after more than four years of bush war, are defiant."There are no negotiations," said Patriotic Front Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kayonga at Kigali's bombed-out rebel headquarters. The rebels now control parts of Kigali and have government forces besieged from strategic surrounding hills.

"The problem is not a cease-fire, the problem is ceasing the killing of people, the hacking, spearing and shooting to death of people," said Kayonga.

As many as 100,000 people may have been killed in the past two weeks, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch group said in a letter to the Security Council, made public late on Tuesday.

The organization said the campaign of killing was planned weeks before the president's death, "when army officers trained, armed and organized some 1,700 young men into a militia affiliated with the president's political party."

It said the Rwandan defense ministry also made broadcasts attacking the political opposition and inciting violence against civilians sympathetic to the Patriotic Front, making clear it was referring to members of the Tutsi tribe.

Immediate after the president's death, the army and militia "engaged in targeted killings of political opponents of the regime, including both Hutu and Tutsi human rights activists and moderates within the government, including the prime minister."