Burundi general assassinated

2016-04-25 22:42
The scene of a grenade attack that was targeted at and killed a Tutsi General and security advisor to Burundi's vice president Athanase Kararuza. (Onesphore Nibigira , AFP)

The scene of a grenade attack that was targeted at and killed a Tutsi General and security advisor to Burundi's vice president Athanase Kararuza. (Onesphore Nibigira , AFP)

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Bujumbura - A military general in Burundi who was an adviser to the country's vice president and two others were shot dead in the capital, a military official said on Monday. It is the latest killing in an upsurge of violence including tortures and increased disappearances that have created a climate of fear and led more than 250 000 people to flee to neighbouring countries.

The ambush of Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza came on the day that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced the opening of a preliminary probe into atrocities in Burundi over the last year, saying violence in the African nation has reportedly left more than 430 people dead.

Gunmen opened fire on Kararuza's car with rocket-propelled grenades when he dropped his daughter at school in the Bujumbura neighbourhood of Gihosha, said military spokesperson Colonel Gaspard Baratuza.

Kararuza's wife and one of his bodyguards were also killed in the attack while his daughter, another bodyguard and the driver were wounded, Baratuza said in a statement. Baratuza urged calm and said that the perpetrators of the attack hoped to divide the army.

Burundi has been wracked by violence since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza declared his bid for a third term, which he eventually won in July, despite protests that it violates the constitution.

The "preliminary examination" announced Monday by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is a step toward a full investigation that could lead to charges against suspects. Bensouda says her investigators have received reports of crimes including killing, imprisonment, torture and rape in Burundi.

The Burundian government has repeatedly denied it tortures and kills civilians, although Nkurunziza urged the security forces to use all means necessary to end the violence.

There was no immediate comment from the army about who might have carried out the killings of Kararuza and the others, but recently there have been attacks on military officials following the launch of a rebel group fighting Nkurunziza's government.

Kararuza was one of the few remaining high-ranking Tutsi army officers still close to Nkurunziza, an ethnic Hutu. In a Twitter post, Nkurunziza condemned the attack on Kararuza.

Lambert Nigarura, a prominent lawyer and activist, said the targeting of senior army officers in Burundi may be aimed at fomenting rifts within the army.

UN peacekeeper

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination of the general, who until September 2015 was the deputy commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Central African Republic, as a "tragic loss."

Ban noted that the killing follows several politically motivated assassination attempts in recent weeks, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

The UN chief called for "a rigorous and prompt investigation" of these violent acts which "serve no purpose other than to worsen the already volatile situation in Burundi," Dujarric said.

Ban underlined that an inclusive political process is the only way to put Burundi back on the path to peace and called on all political leaders, including those in exile, to renounce violence and start talking, the UN spokesperson said.

Burundi reiterated in a letter to the UN Security Council circulated Monday that it is prepared to allow 20 unarmed UN police experts into the country to help the national police. It listed eight priority areas where the government is seeking UN logistical and police assistance, including detecting and tracing arms, modernizing the criminal police force and combating terrorism.

The letter noted that the government and the African Union have also jointly agreed to deploy 200 AU human rights observers and unarmed military personnel in the country.

Read more on:    burundi  |  east africa

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