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Gunmen Kill Burundi Opposition Leader

  • VOA News

Relatives and friends gather around the covered body of Zedi Feruzi, the head of opposition party UPD, in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 23, 2015.

Relatives and friends gather around the covered body of Zedi Feruzi, the head of opposition party UPD, in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 23, 2015.

The leader of an opposition party in Burundi has been shot dead by unknown assailants in Bujumbura, according to witnesses and residents.

They say Zedi Feruzi, the head of the UPD party, and at least one of his bodyguards were killed in a drive-by shooting Saturday in the capital's Ngangara district.

Few other details were immediately available. The attack is the latest violent incident in the country following President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for another term in office.

Deadly attacks

On Friday, attackers threw grenades into a crowded Bujumbura marketplace, killing at least two people.

Meanwhile, anti-government protests continued in the capital on Friday. Police fired tear gas at protesters who threw stones and burned tires.

Police and protesters have fought running battles during a month of demonstrations against Nkurunziza and his plan to run for a third term. The president's decision triggered a failed coup and sent more than 100,000 people fleeing the country.

In another development Friday, the U.N. refugee agency said an outbreak of cholera has killed 29 Burundian refugees who fled to Tanzania to escape political unrest at home. It said that two Tanzanians have also died in an outbreak that has affected 3,000 people in the Kagunga area, near Lake Tanganyika.

Officials have brought in clean water, medicine and other supplies to halt the outbreak.

The U.S. State Department said Friday that the United States has not scaled back its military funding for Burundi. Spokeswoman Marie Harf said members of Burundi's military "have largely acted professionally and neutrally during the recent protests."

Ongoing upheavel

She said, however, that continued violence in Burundi could jeopardize the country's ability to contribute to U.N. peacekeeping missions, and said some U.S. training for U.N. missions has been temporarily halted because of the insecurity.

More than 20 people have died in Burundi since the protests began in late April. The government crushed a coup attempt last week while Nkurunziza was out of the country.

Critics of Nkurunziza say a third term would violate the two-term limit in Burundi's constitution. His supporters argue a third term is permitted because he was elected by parliament, not voters, for his first term in 2005.

The government postponed local and parliamentary elections by 10 days to June 5 but has made no move to delay the presidential poll, scheduled for June 26.

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