20-Year Search for One of 'World's Most Brutal Killers' Ends

It turns out Protais Mpiranya has been dead since 2006
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2022 4:15 PM CDT
20-Year Search for One of 'World's Most Brutal Killers' Ends
Flowers are laid on a glass case containing the skulls of some of those who were slaughtered as they sought refuge in a church in Ntarama, Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

He's one of the "world’s most brutal killers," in the Guardian's telling, and he's eluded authorities for 20 years. But Protais Mpiranya has now been found—dead. The Rwandan fugitive allegedly played a big part in the country's 1994 genocide as commander of the Rwandan presidential guard and was indicted for genocide against the Tutsis by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2002. He was "the last of the major fugitives" indicted by that tribunal, reports the AP, and his remains have been located in a Zimbabwe cemetery, buried under a slab that names a different body. UN investigators managed to zero in on the Harare-area location after finding a clue on a computer seized in an unnamed European country: the design for Mpiranya's tombstone.

Investigators combed the cemetery, whose graves were obscured by grass as tall as people, in February. After a 2.5-hour search, they located the grave of "Sambao Ndume," whose date of birth was identical to Mpiranya's. An inscription in French added, "Here rests forever one who loved his fatherland, his people and his family, more than his own life." The body under the slab was exhumed in April, and DNA analysis on Tuesday confirmed the remains are those of Mpiranya. They had been there for some time.

The chief prosecutor with the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals—which was set up in 2015 after the Rwanda tribunal was closed—said in a statement that Mpiranya died in Harare in October 2006 after suffering a heart attack caused by tuberculosis. He was 50. The Guardian notes that with recent "sightings" of Mpiranya, investigators believed him to still be alive as recently as late 2021. (Read the full Guardian piece, which detail his financial downfall in advance of his death.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.