Thousands of people were killed in the central African country of Burundi this week in battles between members of the rival Hutu and Tutsi tribes, government and opposition officials said Friday.

There were reports of systematic slaughter in two northern villages and a lake filled with thousands of corpses. Several thousand people were said to have fled the country to escape the bloodbath.The government said the army had stopped the fighting between the majority Hutu and the Tutsi, who control the military and government.

In April 1972 the Hutu tried to overthrow the government, but the coup failed and the Tutsi retailiated by killing 100,000 Hutu.