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ITALIAN NUNS' MURDER

CRIME

Church official calls for journalist’s release

A senior member of Burundi's influential Catholic Church on Saturday called for the release of a radio station boss who has been arrested for complicity in the murder of three Italian nuns.

Bob Rugurika, director of the popular independent African Public Radio (RPA), was arrested in mid-January after broadcasting the purported confession of a man claiming he was one of the killers.

The three Roman Catholic nuns, Lucia Pulici, 75, Bernadetta Boggian, 79 and Olga Raschietti, 83, were murdered at a convent in Kamenge, north of the capital Bujumbura in September last year. The purported confession contradicted a police account of the crime and implicated a top official.

Speaking on Catholic station Radio Maria, prominent cleric Pierre Antoine Madaraga said he was "hurt" by the arrest and said the report by RPA – which is close to the opposition and known for its crime reporting – should be followed up.

Police arrested a suspect two days after the crime and said he had owned up to the murders. They also presented the suspect as being mentally unstable.

"When RPA started to give us other information, we thought that finally there is another lead to follow," Madaraga said. "So putting RPA's director in prison is like wanting to silence the truth."

"I'm asking seriously that we free him so the truth can be told about the murder of the three sisters," he added.

For broadcasting the counter-confession and refusing to give up the self-proclaimed killer, Rugurika was charged with complicity in the murders, "breach of public solidarity" and disclosing confidential information regarding a case.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The man who made the radio claim said he was ordered to carry out the hits by three men he met in a bar belonging to former spy boss, Adolphe Nshimirimana.

Nshimirimana, who now works in the presidency, is one of President Pierre Nkurunziza's top lieutenants.

The killing of the nuns caused shock in Burundi and Italy. Two were stabbed to death and the third decapitated.

Burundi, a small nation in Africa's Great Lakes region, emerged from 13 years of brutal civil war in 2006, but the political climate remains fractious ahead of presidential polls due in June.

ROME

‘Bank robber’ rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

Four people were arrested in Rome after a suspected would-be bank robber was rescued from a tunnel under a road, police said on Friday.

'Bank robber' rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

An Italian man had to be rescued after becoming trapped in a collapsed tunnel near the Vatican, suspected of being part of a gang burrowing its way to a nearby bank.

Firefighters spent eight hours digging him out from under a road in the west of Rome, before he was finally freed on Thursday evening and taken to hospital.

“Two people from Naples were arrested for resisting a public official and two, from Rome, for damage” to public property, a police spokesman told AFP.

The rescued man, one of the two Romans, remains in hospital, he said without giving an update on his condition.

“We are still investigating, we do not exclude that they are thieves, it is one of the theories,” he said.

For Italian newspapers, however, the motive was clear, with reports noting the tunnel was found near a bank ahead of the August 15th long weekend, when residents traditionally head out of town and much of Rome is left empty.

“The hole gang,” headlined newspapers Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, while La Stampa said: “They dig a tunnel to rob a bank, and one of them is buried underground.”

Other reports referred to the suspected burglar as l’uomo-talpa, or ‘mole man’.

An AFP reporter at the scene on Thursday saw the man brought out alive on a stretcher, after a day-long operation involving dozens of emergency service workers using mechanical diggers.

The tunnel began underneath an empty shop that had recently been rented.

“We all thought that the people there were renovating the place. So we had no suspicions and we did not hear noises either,” a resident, Michele, who lives in the same building told AFP.

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