BUJUMBURA, Jan 12: Twelve Burundians were killed when a large group of gunmen singing 'Alleluia' launched a night time raid on a village outside the capital, a government official said on Monday.

In a separate attack, seven people were killed and several others wounded or kidnapped on Monday when bandits attacked a bus travelling to the capital from the western province of Cibitoke, local government officials said.

The latest killings underscored the persistence of violence in Burundi during a visit by President Domitien Ndayizeye to Europe in search of donor funds to reward progress in ending more than a decade of civil war.

Fighting between rebels from the Hutu majority and the army controlled by the minority Tutsis since 1993 has killed an estimated 300,000 people. The rebels have been fighting to end the dominance of Tutsis in the government and armed forces.

A local official accused the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) rebel group of staging the attack on the village, which occurred on Sunday at Gihanga commune, 12 km northwest of Bujumbura.

"There were many of them and they were making a loud noise singing 'Alleluia', the administrator of Gihanga commune, Jean Bosco Hatungimana, told Reuters.

Four soldiers and a rebel were killed when army troops later intervened, Hatungimana said. The spokesman for the FNL, Pasteur Habimana, declined to comment on the accusations.

The FNL, whose rebels are well-known for singing hymns as they go into battle, is the only one of various rebel groups that has not signed a peace deal with the government, although it said this month that it will hold talks with Ndayizeye.

Ndayizeye left Bujumbura on Saturday to visit Belgium, France and the Netherlands to seek development aid for Burundi, where war has prevented much of the population of 6.5 million from escaping deep levels of poverty.

He is expected to point to a peace deal with the largest rebel group, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the possibility of dialogue with the FNL as major steps towards ending the country's conflict.-Reuters

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