FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, MARCH 3, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES INDICTMENT, ARRESTS OF THREE REBEL GROUP MEMBERS FOR BRUTAL MURDERS OF TWO AMERICAN TOURISTS IN UGANDA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division, United States Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr., and Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office Van A. Harp today announced the arrest of three members of the Liberation Army of Rwanda ("ALIR") for the brutal murder of two American tourists in Uganda in 1999.
The three defendants, Francois Karake, 38, a/k/a Rafiki; Gregoire Nyaminani, 32; and Leonidas Bimenyimana, 34, a/k/a Zappy Gaddi, all Rwandan nationals, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2003, and charged with committing the murders of American tourists Susan Miller and Robert Haubner in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Bwindi) in Uganda, on March 1, 1999.
The three defendants were removed from Rwanda on March 1, 2003, and subsequently flown to Puerto Rico; they are scheduled to have their removal hearing today. The four-count indictment, unsealed today, charges the three defendants with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and using a firearm during a crime of violence and causing death. All charges, except the conspiracy offense, carry a potential for the death penalty upon conviction. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
"This indictment should serve as a warning," said Assistant Attorney General Chertoff. "Those who commit acts of terror against Americans will be hunted, captured and brought to justice."
The conspiracy charged in the indictment dates back to February 1999, when members of ALIR are alleged to have conducted surveillance of a campsite at Bwindi to determine the presence of English-speaking tourists. On March 1, 1999, the defendants allegedly participated in an attack that resulted in the brutal murders of Susan Miller and her husband, Robert Haubner, while the two Americans were on a safari vacation at Bwindi. They were employed by the Intel Corporation in Portland, Ore.
The indictment alleges that on the morning of March 1, 1999, a group of terrorist rebels invaded the tourist camp at Bwindi and attacked the Park's guards and sentries, killing one of the guards by burning him alive to discourage resistance. The attackers then rounded up more than 20 tourists from the campground and separated 17 English-speaking individuals, including four U.S. nationals, from the group. They were then marched, by force, into the forest toward the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The indictment further alleges that members of the group killed Mr. Haubner by striking him in the head multiple times with an axe. Members of the group are also alleged to have assaulted, then murdered his wife.
Bwindi is a remote, rain forest area in the extreme southwestern region of Uganda near the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, and is known for the presence of rare mountain gorillas. Six other tourists from other countries were also murdered; some were bludgeoned to death with axes. A ninth murder victim was a park warden at Bwindi.
A handwritten note was given to the survivors by the leader of the attackers, a rebel group then known as ALIR. The note stated that the attack was to send a message to the United States and other countries to abstain from supporting the current Rwandan government. The note charged that Americans, among others, supported the Tutsi minority in Rwanda in oppressing and massacring Hutus. Similar notes were found on the bodies of two other victims, identifying them as Anglo-Saxons who were killed as punishment for their alleged oppression of the Hutu majority.
"This attack was clearly an attempt to use terror to make a dramatic political point. The American victims were targeted because the United States supports the government of Rwanda," said U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. "As in all terrorism cases, we will work tirelessly to apprehend those responsible and bring them to justice. The governments of Rwanda and the United States have cooperated extensively in the joint effort to investigate this crime. We appreciate the assistance of the government of Rwanda and its intention to continue to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of all those responsible for the attack in Uganda."
ALIR was formed in 1996. It was the result of the merger of the former Armed Forces of Rwanda ("FAR"), which was the army of the Rwandan Hutu regime that carried out the genocide of approximately 1 million Tutsis in 1994, and the Interahamwe, which was the civilian militia force that assisted that genocide. ALIR was formed to achieve the forceful overthrow of Rwanda's current government and it declared its violent opposition to any foreign government which was perceived to provide support to that regime.
In announcing the indictment, the DOJ leadership commended the team of prosecutors and agents responsible for the investigation and the prosecution of this case, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Wysong, Criminal Division trial attorney George Z. Toscas of the Counterterrorism Section, the FBI Legal Attache Paris, and Special Agents of the FBI's Washington Field Office. Also instrumental in this case were U.S. Ambassador Margaret McMillion, and her embassy staff and the government of Rwanda.