updated 7/22/2004 10:43:05 PM ET 2004-07-23T02:43:05

A Ugandan court has charged a Rwandan rebel with killing eight tourists, some from the United States, and a tour guide during a 1999 gorilla-watching trip to a remote African rain forest.

Jean-Paul Bizimana, also known as Xavier Van Dame, 30, was not required to enter a plea in a magistrate court Wednesday, according to court documents. He faces death if convicted in the murders of the two Americans, four Britons, two New Zealanders and the Ugandan guide.

The eight foreigners were hacked and bludgeoned to death by Rwandan rebels while on a trip to see gorillas in a remote rain forest near Uganda’s borders with Congo and Rwanda. The rebels targeted English speakers in a bid to weaken U.S. and British support for the new Rwandan government.

Three other Rwandan rebels were arrested in March 2003 with the help of the Rwandan government. They were flown to Puerto Rico for initial court appearances, and a trial was to be held in Washington, D.C. Their status was not immediately clear Thursday.

Bizimana, a member of the former Rwandan army that played a key role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, was arrested July 16 near the Ugandan border, local media reported.

The rebels were members of the Liberation Army of Rwanda, formed in 1996 in refugee camps in neighboring Zaire, now Congo, by members of the former Rwandan army and the extremist militia known as Interahamwe.

The rebels first attracted notice in late 1996 when they issued a statement putting a bounty on Americans.

Among the nine victims were Americans Rob Haubner and his wife, Susan Miller, of Portland, Ore. They had been with a group of about 30 tourists visiting Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The rebels invaded the tourist campground on March 1, 1999, and forced 17 tourists who spoke English to remove shoes and begin marching.

Nine people survived the kidnapping, including one who was given a note by the rebels warning the United States and Britain — key donor nations to Rwanda — not to interfere in the country. Similar notes were found on the bodies of two of those killed.

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