President Domitien Ndayizeye, speaking from the hospital, said: "It was an ambush. They shot to kill him."
Those who killed Monsignor Courtney would be brought to justice, the president vowed, noting that the area where he was killed was a stronghold of rebels from the National Liberation Forces (FNL).
A senior Burundian archbishop also pointed the finger at the FNL:
"The nuncio's appeals to the FNL to stop fighting and their reactions show, in my opinion, that we need not look for the culprits outside the FNL," said Burundi's most senior Catholic church official, Archbishop Ntamwana.
But the FNL has denied the accusation.
"We knew where he lived... We could have killed him if we wished. We strongly condemn those who killed him," rebel spokesman Pasteur Habimana said.
Shortly afterwards, the FNL threatened to kill Ntamawana, for accusing them of being involved in the assassination.
Eighteen months on, neither the identity of the killers, nor the motive for the attack, have been revealed. Has the world forgotten about Michael Courtney?
*Update* - From a debate in the Irish Parliament, Thursday 2nd June:
171. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the information on the circumstances surrounding the murder of a person (details supplied); if he has initiated new inquiries with the authorities in Burundi; if identification of the killers has been advanced to any extent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18859/05]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Since the events of 29 December 2003, my Department has been endeavouring to establish the full circumstances of the ambush that led to Archbishop Michael Courtney’s tragic death. My predecessor, Deputy Cowen, discussed this issue on a number of occasions with both the President and Foreign Minister of Burundi, most recently on 21 September 2004, when he met the President in New York at the United Nations General Assembly. The Government was also presented in February 2004 with the results of the initial investigation conducted by the Burundian authorities. This report, which was presented simultaneously to the Holy See, was provided in confidence to the Government and to the Holy See. Ongoing contact has also been maintained throughout between my Department and the Holy See.
Arising from the investigation by the Burundian authorities, an individual, said to have suffered serious injury during the ambush that resulted in Archbishop Courtney’s murder, was arrested in February 2004. My Department has learned that the suspect has since died in custody. The Burundian authorities have assured us that they are continuing to pursue others who they believe may have been involved in the ambush but they fear that some of those concerned may have fled to a neighbouring country. The Government remains in close contact with and seeks regular updates from the Burundi authorities regarding developments in the investigation. The Burundian Government has offered assurances that they remain fully committed to taking all possible steps to bring those responsible to justice. The Government will continue to urge that all efforts are made by the Burundian authorities to apprehend those responsible for the Archbishop’s murder. I also will seriously consider the issue of official representation, in the event that any trial eventually takes place.
Technorati tags: Burundi, human rights