Gunfire, explosions in Burundi kill five

Gitega, Burundi.Photo; wikimedia

Gitega, Burundi.Photo; wikimedia

ABOUT five people were feared killed in overnight clashes in Burundi, police said yesterday, and residents reported a battle at the president’s office in the capital, Bujumbura, which has been plagued by violence since a disputed presidential election.

Burundi has been in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April he planned to run for a third term – a move opponents said violated the constitution and a peace treaty that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005.

Hundreds have been killed in related violence since April and 217,000 people have fled to surrounding countries, raising fears of a slide into ethnic conflict in a region where memories of the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda are still raw.

Nkurunziza said a court ruling allowed his bid and went on to win a disputed election in July.

Residents in Bujumbura’s Rohero neighbourhood, close to the president’s office, said they heard shooting and explosions overnight.

“We heard lot of shootings, explosions and shelling. And it was a kind of exchange of fire between soldiers at the presidency and attackers. Mortars were also fired,” a night watchman near the president’s office said.

Officials and police could not be reached for comment and state media television and radio have not reported any violence at the presidency.

However, Bujumbura Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa said four people had been killed across the capital, two policemen wounded and 28 people arrested.

The arrests occurred in Bujumbura’s Ngagara neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon when police raided a bar and detained 28 youths on suspicion of having weapons.

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