GENEVA, July 12 -- The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday bodies have started to reappear in the Kagera River, indicating that the massacres which have killed up to 500,000 people continue. The UNHCR report comes on the heels of France's decision to withdraw its 2,500 troops from Rwanda before the end of the month. French Defense Minister Francois Leotard said the pullout would be completed before the Aug. 21 expiration of its U.N. mandate. 'We are again seeing bodies in the Kagera River, after not having seen that kind of thing for several weeks,' said UNHCR spokeswoman Sylvana Foa. 'We are seeing between 10 and 20 bodies a day floating down the river past Ngara, some of them are very, very fresh bodies, so the killing continues,' she said. At the height of the massacres, thousands of bodies congested the river border between Rwanda and Tanzania, causing a public health threat. The river flows into Lake Victoria, central Africa's main water source. Most of the bodies have been from the minority Tutsi ethnic tribe. The renewed signs of summary excutions in Rwanda have added to tensions in refugee camps in Tanzania, where 371 people have died in the last 10 days from diarrhea and malnutrition. 'The vast majority of them were seriously malnourished new arrivals which has prompted us to consider renewing cross-border operations,' Foa said. Humanitarian aid workers in Rwanda have also reported a movement of between 200,000 and 500,000 people heading toward Gisenyi in northwestern Rwanda near the border with Zaire.
There's a further 350, 000 people west of Butare, the southeastern town recently taken by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, near the border with Burundi. 'There's a snowball effect,' Foa said. 'As these people move, mostly from Kigali, other people join them.' In the last few days, UNHCR has sent teams to northwestern and southwestern Rwanda to monitor the situation and work out logistics for a cross-border operation. 'We have quite a bit of stock in neighboring countries which we have been using as contingency supplies and we want to move it into Rwanda if it becomes possible in the next few days,' Foa added. Fighting between the majority Hutu ethnic tribe and minority Tutsis started April 6 after Rwanda's President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed in a suspicious plane crash near the capital Kigali. Most of the killings have been blamed on Hutu government forces. During the three months of fighting, the RPF has taken control of more than two-thirds of the tiny land-locked central African nation, forcing what remains of the rump government to flee to the northwest town of Ruhengeri. News reports Tuesday said the RPF had tightened its grip on the town overnight and that it would not be too long before it had total control of the country.