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Fighting escalates in Burundi, death toll reaches 87

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Burundi photo caption: Men carry away a body in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi on Saturday [AP Photo]

Burundi photo caption: Men carry away a body in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi on Saturday [AP Photo]

FIGHTING in Burundi has escalated as no fewer than 87 people had been reported killed in clashes with the Burundi military in the capital of Bujumbura that began last Friday.

CNN quoting a Burundi army representative, Gaspard Baratuza said four police officers and four soldiers were among the dead, while nine soldiers and 11 policemen were wounded. At least 45 people were arrested following the clashes.

The United States through the State Department has also condemned the fighting and the killings. “The United States is deeply alarmed by the attacks that occurred overnight and continue in Bujumbura. We condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms, and we call on all sides to refrain immediately from violence.”

France has also condemned the attacks and called on all parties in Burundi to choose dialogue and end the violence.

Burundi has seen months of chaos as violence erupted after Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced a controversial run for a third term. The subsequent unrest had left scores dead and caused more than a 170,000 people to flee the country.

Violence was ignited on Friday after attacks by assailants on three army installations, Burundian officials said on Saturday.

In May this year, Nkurunziza held onto his office after a failed coup attempt by an army general while the President was in Tanzania.

Tensions in the East African nation have heightened in recent months. The international community, United Nations and several high-profile Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed fear that the country could degenerate into an ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis.
During Burundi’s 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005, a Hutu majority fought as rebels against the Tutsi-led army.

A climate of fear has engulfed Bujumbura, though the streets were reportedly calm on Sunday.

“So far the violence has been political,” reported Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, adding it has sparked “fears that civil war in Burundi could be rekindled”.

About 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006 during the civil war.

“There is a police operation that is continuing in the suburbs of the capital,” Adow said, explaining that young men have been the primary target.

An eyewitness told the Associated Press he counted 21 bodies with bullet wounds to the head in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood on Saturday morning.

Some of the dead had their hands tied behind their backs.
Meanwhile, the US State Department has warned Americans not to travel to Burundi as political violence there increases.

A travel warning issued yesterday urged US citizens in the central African country to leave “as soon as it is feasible to do so”.

Last month, Belgium advised its citizens to leave BurundI while the EU cut staff levels, temporarily evacuating
employees’ “families and part of the non-essential staff”.


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