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French prosecutors move to drop probe into 1994 Rwanda presidential attack

The long-running probe has been a major source of tension between the two countries.

FILE: Skulls of victims of the Ntarama massacre during the 1994 genocide are lined in the Genocide Memorial Site church of Ntarama, in Nyamata in Rwanda. Picture: AFP.

PARIS - French prosecutors have requested the dismissal of a probe into the deadly 1994 attack on former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked the country’s genocide, according to legal papers seen by AFP Saturday.

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.

In a statement dated 10 October, prosecutors demanded that the charges be dropped against seven suspects because investigators had not been able to gather “sufficient evidence”.

The final decision now lies with the investigative magistrate.

Lawyers for Habyarimana’s widow Agathe called the prosecutors’ move “unacceptable” and “largely politically motivated”.

The missile strike on Habyarimana’s plane near Kigali’s airport in April 1994 triggered 100 days of bloodshed that left an estimated 800,000 people dead, mostly members of the Tutsi minority.

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.

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