Video: Alleged Rwandan death squad mastermind arrested

updated 10/6/2009 8:47:08 PM ET 2009-10-07T00:47:08

A top suspect wanted for orchestrating the killings of thousands of people in Rwanda's 1994 genocide — including children, hospital patients, priests and even an elderly and revered African queen — has been captured, police said.

Former Rwanda Deputy Intelligence Chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana was arrested Monday in Uganda, police said Tuesday, under an indictment from the Rwanda war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide in the systematic slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days in 1994.

Until last week, Nizeyimana was believed to have hidden in the jungles of eastern Congo, where he belonged to a militia called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, that continues to commit atrocities. The Rwandan militia, made up of Hutus, is accused of having killed at least 1,000 civilians this year, including rampaging through a village and throwing children into a fire, human rights groups said.

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for the capture of Nizeyimana.

Call for cooperation
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Nizeyimana's arrest and called on all countries to continue to cooperate fully with the Rwanda tribunal, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

Gregory Alex, who heads a U.N. team tasked with demobilizing rebels in Congo and repatriating them to Rwanda, told The Associated Press the capture of Nizeyimana was a major coup.

"He's important not only for his continuing role in the FDLR in the Congo but also for his role during the genocide in Rwanda," Alex said. "He is known for having spoken openly of the 'work' he conducted during the genocide. He is someone who has actually admitted that he is a genocide organizer and executor."

A chilling, 23-page indictment from the Rwanda war crimes court alleges Nizeyimana was de facto head of Rwanda's Senior Military Training College during the 1994 genocide, ordering entire Tutsi families to be slaughtered and giving grenades and transport to militiamen. He ordered roadblocks set up in Rwanda's province of Butare, where Tutsis and Hutus had lived amicably together and where the genocide started later than in the rest of the country, the indictment said. At the roadblocks, Tutsis were identified by their ID cards and killed.

Nizeyimana, 46, has been flown to Arusha, Tanzania, for trial at the U.N.-established International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Tribunal spokesman Ronald Amoussouga said the arrest of the former army captain and member of the president's inner circle "is quite a significant development not only for the tribunal, but also for the quest for justice as a whole."

Interpol's deputy director in Uganda, Ally Womanga, told the AP that Nizeyimana did not resist arrest but "was caught like a grasshopper." He declined to say if anyone had claimed the reward.

Nizeyimana in recent weeks sent emissaries to a U.N. base in Kimua, Congo, to negotiate turning himself in. The discussions collapsed when Nizeyimana suggested the bounty on his head be given to his family if he surrendered.

Allegations of secret killing units
During the genocide, Nizeyimana was alleged to have formed secret units of soldiers that executed prominent Tutsis, including Queen Rosalie Gicanda, who was in her 80s, according to the indictment issued in 2000. The Rwandan monarchy ended decades earlier but Gicanda remained a revered and symbolic figure for Tutsis. Soldiers hauled her and others from her house in Butare and shot them behind the National Museum.

"Killing her was a symbolic gesture and made it clear that no Tutsi would be spared," genocide expert Rakiya Omaar wrote in a report.

A report by Rwanda's demobilization and reintegration commission said Nizeyimana visited the Butare hospital many times to ensure that Tutsi patients there were swiftly killed.

Pierre Gasana, a Rwandan who lives in suburban Kampala, told AP that Nizeyimana had killed some of his relatives during the genocide.

"There were more than 10 hiding in one house," said Gasana, 60. "With his men, they broke into the house and shot at them at close range. Only one woman survived after pretending that she was dead and escaped into a swamp."

After Tutsi rebels fought their way to power, many former Hutu militia leaders fled to Congo.

Ugandan police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said Nizeyimana is believed to have entered Uganda through Congo on fake travel documents. He is the second high-profile genocide suspect to be arrested in as many months. A former mayor, Gregoire Ndahimana, appeared at the tribunal in Tanzania last week after being captured in Congo in August.

Hate speeches against Tutsis
There were about a dozen alleged masterminds of the genocide, many of whom are still at large. The most prominent is Felicien Kabuga, who allegedly financed Hutu militias and funded the radio station that broadcast hate speeches against Tutsis.

Col. Theoneste Bagosora is among those captured. He was sentenced last year to life imprisonment for using his position as the highest authority in Rwanda's Ministry of Defense to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The tribunal has delivered judgments on 39 people, including six acquittals.

The genocide was sparked when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it approached Kigali, Rwanda's capital. The slaughter ended when Paul Kagame led a group of Tutsi rebels to overthrow the Hutu government. Kagame is now Rwanda's president.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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