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Police kill five in Burundi battles


Burundi protestBurundi police said they had shot dead five “insurgents” who hurled grenades at a patrol on Wednesday, with witnesses saying the suspects were lined up and executed.

After shootings and grenade blasts overnight in the capital Bujumbura on Tuesday, in which a police officer and a civilian were killed, the latest of near daily gun battles saw a group of men attack a police patrol Wednesday, according to police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye.

“When these criminals threw a third grenade, the police officers returned fire and killed five, while others managed to escape,” Nkurikiye said, adding that two officers were wounded.

But local residents said that after the grenade attacks, police rounded up the men before shooting them at close range. One witness said the bullet wounds showed they had been shot in the head or back “execution” style, an allegation dismissed by police.

Burundi’s government blames the attacks on “armed criminals”, but the United Nations has warned that Burundi risks sliding back into civil war as violence continues.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, an ex-rebel and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to rule, won a third term in office in July, despite concerns over the legality of him serving a third consecutive mandate.

The UN warned this week that violence could degenerate into genocide, and stressed the urgent need for a political dialogue.

“I am not saying that tomorrow there will be a genocide in Burundi, but there is a serious risk that if we do not stop the violence this may end with a civil war, and following such a civil war anything is possible,” said Adama Dieng, a special UN adviser for the prevention of genocide.

Meanwhile the European Union said it could restrict its ties with Burundi to humanitarian aid after talks on Tuesday failed to resolve its concerns over human rights.

Burundi, however, said it was “satisfied” with the meeting which had “helped revive the dialogue” with the EU, according to a government statement released Wednesday.

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