Rwanda to investigate assassination of ex-president

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KIGALI, Oct 11 (Reuters) Rwanda has set up an inquiry into the downing of a plane carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana, an incident widely seen as triggering the country's 1994 genocide, a government minister said today.

The fatal attack on the aircraft remains a controversial topic in the tiny central African nation, where it preceded the ethnic slaughter of some 800,000 people by troops and militiamen.

''Cabinet has named a team of people to form an independent commission charged with establishing the truth,'' Information Minister Laurent Nkusi told Reuters, without elaborating.

The subject caused a diplomatic rift with France last year after a French judge called Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, to be charged with the death of his predecessor. Kagame, who was a rebel leader at the time, denies any involvement.

That prompted Kigali to sever diplomatic ties with Paris, and led to an ugly spat with Rwanda accusing French troops of encouraging the architects of the genocide. France denies that.

Kagame, a Tutsi, has said he believes Habyarimana's plane was downed by extremists from his own Hutu tribe who objected to peace talks between his administration and Kagame's guerrillas.

Separately, Nkusi said the government had extended another probe into what role France -- which deployed peacekeepers in Rwanda under a UN mandate -- had played in the genocide.

REUTERS AE DS1623

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