Burundi table tennis players cleared over suspect meetings

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Burundi police have released 21 members of a table tennis club, who had been arrested over suspicious meetings several times a week, a close friend of the team said on Tuesday.

"It is a great relief, the SNR (National Intelligence Services) finally realised it was really a table tennis club ... and that they were training for an upcoming regional tournament," the source said on condition of anonymity.

A police source confirmed the players had been released on Monday night a few hours after their arrest.

Government critics took to Twitter to slam the "paranoia" of Burundian authorities.

Police spokesperson Pierre Nkurikiye had announced the arrest of the 21 people including "an army officer, two police officers, a retired army officer and civilians."

"The population alerted security forces that people were often meeting at this house and that they had plans to disrupt security," he said.

The incident comes in the run-up to a constitutional referendum on May 17 that could keep President Pierre Nkurunziza in power until 2034.

Nkurunziza ran for a third five-year term and was re-elected in 2015 despite a two-term limit under the constitution, triggering violence that left at least 1 200 people dead and sent more than 400,000 Burundians fleeing abroad.

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