Burundi gun battle neutralises protesters

2015-07-01 17:10
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Bujumbura - Six people, including one police officer, were killed in gun battles on Wednesday in a part of Burundi's capital that has led protests against the president's third-term bid, police said.

The violence, in Bujumbura's Cibitoke district, is the latest in weeks of unrest, and comes as Burundi awaits results from elections on Monday that were boycotted by the opposition and widely condemned internationally.

Five of those killed were members of an armed group who were "neutralised", police said, adding they had seized weapons, including a rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade.

Cibitoke was sealed off on Wednesday by security forces, an AFP photographer said.

The clashes took place after three grenades were thrown at a police patrol, injuring two officers, a police official said speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, some voting stations were also attacked by grenades, according to the police.

The election commission claimed an "enormous" turnout in the local and general elections, despite many polling stations appearing quiet.

Elsewhere in the capital Wednesday, military parades were held to mark the country's independence day.

Burundi has been rocked by two months of protests and a failed coup attempt sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's defiant bid for a third term. More than 70 people have been killed in the unrest.

Profound crisis

Almost four million people were registered to vote on Monday, but the opposition boycotted the polls, as they did in the last elections in 2010, claiming it was not possible to hold a fair vote given the climate of tensions.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier called for the voting to be delayed, as Burundi struggles through its worst crisis since the end of its civil war nine years ago.

The European Union warned the polls would "only exacerbate the profound crisis", while former colonial power Belgium said the polls were not credible and could "further divide the country".

A combative Nkurunziza late on Tuesday asked the international community "to respect our independence", adding that the elections "had passed off very well".

Monday's polls kickstarted a series of elections, with presidential polls due on July 15 followed by senatorial elections on July 24.

Opponents say Nkurunziza's bid for another term is unconstitutional and violates a peace accord that paved the way for the end of 13 years of civil war in 2006.

Civil society groups backed the boycott in a joint statement calling on voters to skip the "sham elections". Almost 144 000 refugees have fled into neighbouring nations.

Read more on:    pierre nkurunziza  |  burundi  |  east africa

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