News24

Burundi troops kill 18 in clashes

2011-11-22 13:14

Bujumbura - Burundian troops killed 18 gunmen in fierce clashes, a government official said on Tuesday, stoking fears that a new rebellion may erupt in the central African nation.

The coffee-producing country has enjoyed relative peace since the Hutu rebel group, Forces for National Liberation, laid down its weapons and joined the government in 2009 after almost two decades of war.

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 insurgency. Authorities routinely blame bandits for the attacks.

The latest clashes happened on Monday in the eastern province of Cankuzo, near the Tanzanian border, the official said.

"There is a group of armed bandits which attacked our province and looted several households. But security forces were informed about the attack and intervened on time, killing eighteen among them," Cankuzo governor, Jean Berchmans Niragira, told Reuters.

An army spokesman, Colonel Gaspard Baratuza, confirmed the incident but gave no further details.

One local resident, who did not want to be named for fear of attack, said the gunmen were armed with machine-guns and that several grenade explosions could be heard.

Pressure is building on President Pierre Nkurunziza to start talks with opposition leaders in exile to prevent a return to a civil war.