Burundi cops seize weapons in varsity raid

2011-10-16 22:34

Bujumbura - Police seized weapons and police uniforms during a raid on Burundi's main university in which a student died from inhaling teargas, and another was arrested, a spokesperson said on Sunday.

The coffee-producing nation has enjoyed relative peace since the former Hutu hardline rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) laid down their weapons and joined the government in 2009 after two decades of insurgency.

But attacks on civilians and soldiers have intensified since elections last year were widely boycotted by the opposition. Analysts say fighting between the security forces and former militia fighters risks blowing up into a full-scale rebellion.

Police spokesperson Pierre Channel Ntarabaganyi told reporters the student died from inhaling teargas used by officers when they entered the University of Burundi to search for the weapons.

"Early this morning, police conducted a search in one student's room at Burundi's university after receiving information about some weapons that could be hidden there," Ntarabaganyi said.

"But a group of students tried to prevent the police from carrying out the operation, police fired teargas and one student died from shortness of breath," he told reporters.

Ntarabaganyi said police seized four hand grenades, three pairs of military boots and three police uniforms during the raid.

He said they also found documents suggesting that a student they arrested had links with FNL and another opposition party, the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD).

The FNL leader, Agathon Rwasa, and MSD's Alexis Sinduhije both live in exile.

Burundi's intelligence cited them in a confidential report as being involved in a deadly attack on a bar that killed at least 36 people.

Analysts say the attacks bear hallmarks of a new rebellion against the central African nation's government.

More voices are calling on President Pierre Nkurunziza to start talks with the opposition leaders in exile to prevent a return to civil war.