France closes probe into 1994 attack on Rwanda president


Paris (AFP)

French anti-terror judges have ended an investigation into the missile attack on a plane that killed former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, sparking Rwanda's 1994 genocide, legal sources said Thursday.

The long-running probe has been a major source of tension between the two countries following accusations that a Tutsi militia headed by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame was responsible for the attack on the plane in April 1994.

The missile strike near Kigali's airport sparked 100 days of slaughter of the Tutsi ethnic minority by members of Habyarimana's Hutu ethnic group, leaving an estimated 800,000 people dead.

Kigali has long accused France of complicity in the genocide by supporting the Hutu regime, training the soldiers and militiamen who carried out the killings.

Ties had been on the mend until 2014 when Kagame repeated accusations that French soldiers had been involved in the bloodbath.

The relationship took an even worse turn when the French judiciary decided in October 2016 to reopen an investigation into the attack on the plane, as the French crew were among the victims.

In October, sources close to the probe told AFP that the judges had heard from a new witness who claimed to have seen the surface-to-air missiles used to launch the attack at the headquarters of Kagame's militia.

The testimony corroborates other versions of events that point the finger at Kagame's regime.

French authorities have been investigating the strike as French citizens were among those killed aboard Habyarimana's plane.

A total of seven people have been charged in France over the deaths, including Rwanda's current defence minister, James Kabarebe, and Franck Nziza who allegedly fired the missile.