Clashes in Burundi's capital kill 90

Suspected fighters being paraded before the media by Burundian police near a recovered cache of weapons after clashes in the capital Bujumbura last Saturday.
Suspected fighters being paraded before the media by Burundian police near a recovered cache of weapons after clashes in the capital Bujumbura last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

NAIROBI • Nearly 90 people were killed in the Burundian capital, the army said, in the worst outbreak of violence in Burundi since a failed coup in May.

Blasts and gunfire echoed around Bujumbura for most of last Friday and residents said officials spent the day collecting bullet-riddled bodies from city streets. There was no fighting overnight and the capital's streets were calm last Saturday.

Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza said last Saturday gunmen had attacked three military sites in Bujumbura, kindling a day of clashes across the city. He said 79 attackers were killed and 45 others captured. Four police officers and four soldiers also died.

"Sweep operations have finished now," Mr Baratuza said, adding that officials confiscated weapons and ammunition.

Unrest in Burundi, which started in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term in office, has unnerved a region still volatile two decades after the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

Last Friday's clashes were condemned by the United States, which like other Western powers fears that the Central African nation could slide back into ethnic conflict.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who is president of the United Nations Security Council council for this month, said the council was ready to consider "further steps".

The police did not identify the gunmen. One of the generals behind the failed coup attempt said afterwards that his rebel group still aimed to topple the President.

Until now, battle lines in Burundi's crisis have followed the political divide. But Western powers and neighbouring countries fear prolonged violence could reopen old ethnic rifts in a nation of 10 million people.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Clashes in Burundi's capital kill 90'. Print Edition | Subscribe