BFF-41 Burundi clashes kill 13 ‘bandits’, police officer: official

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BURUNDI-UNREST

Burundi clashes kill 13 ‘bandits’, police officer: official

NAIROBI, Feb 24, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – At least 13 “armed bandits” and a police officer were killed in clashes between an armed group and security forces in western Burundi, a local official and witnesses said on Monday.

Sunday’s unrest in Bujumbura-Rural province broke out when an armed group from Nyabiraba community entered the neighbouring Mutambu area where police were waiting for them, the official said.

Fighting took place on Nyankere Hill, where “13 corpses of armed bandits were found and another one of them was arrested”, said Jean-Pierre Niyongabo, a local administrator.

One police officer had been killed and a civilian and another police officer were injured, he added.

The fighting broke out 30 kilometres (18 miles) east of Bujumbura, the country’s economic capital, in a rural area with few roads, communications or electricity.

Niyongabo said none of the attackers were recognised by residents in Mutambu.

Two witnesses also confirmed the clashes, saying some Imbonerakure, or members of the youth league of the ruling CNDD-FDD ruling party, were in ranks alongside the police.

“Some of the attackers were shot or slaughtered after their arrest (…) I saw at least two with their arms tied behind their backs,” one of the witnesses told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

The Mutambu administrator denied the charge, dismissing it as “baseless lies”.

The Imbonerakure are listed as a militia by the United Nations and accused by critics of being one of the arms of state repression in Burundi.

The clashes took place in the run-up to the May 20 presidential election.

Burundi’s main opposition party National Freedom Council (CNL) this month denounced the arrests of 23 local leaders in one of their strongholds on the outskirts of the capital.

CNL leader Agathon Rwasa is considered the main challenger to the ruling CNDD-FDD’s Evariste Ndayishimiye in the May election.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, shocked the country by announcing he would not seek re-election after a constitutional change allowed him to do so.

His controversial election to a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

The violent aftermath of the last presidential election in 2015 made Burundi a focus of an investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged murder, rape, torture and disappearances.

Civil unrest killed 1,200 people and drove 400,000 from their homes.

BSS/AFP/MMA/0025HRS