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Burundi Violence Kills 3 Amid Tensions Over President


Fresh political violence in Burundi has left three people dead and at least 13 others wounded, as demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term continued.

Demonstrators say supporters of the government, with the help of police, have been attacking them — allegations that police and the ruling party deny.

Witnesses and a Red Cross official said the latest unrest occurred Thursday after police intervened to stop clashes between the president's supporters and opponents in the capital, Bujumbura.

Bujumbura, Burundi
Bujumbura, Burundi

In the neighborhood of Cibitoke, protesters clashed with police officers. Demonstrators said supporters of the president threw a grenade at them, killing their colleagues and injuring others.

Olivier, who only gave his first name, said he witnessed the attacks.

"They threw three grenades, in Cibitoke, first avenue near the mosque," he said. "In the other place where they threw the two grenades the shot one person in the head and there are those who were injured and were taken to the hospital."

Burundi's Red Cross said the grenade attack killed two people and injured three. Red Cross spokesman Alex Manirakiza said the other person killed Thursday was burned to death.

VOA's Central Africa Service reports the man was believed to be a member of the ruling party's youth wing, and was attacked by opposition supporters in the Nyakabiga area in central Bujumbura.

Manirakiza said the Red Cross has recorded more than 210 people wounded since the protests began last month. He said the organization is coping so far but has reached out to other groups for help in dealing with the situation.

"We are in contact with Caritus Burundi, Handicap International and Doctors Without Borders," he said. "Doctors Without Borders — they promised us to avail more ambulances and we are getting close contact with different communicating channels so that [if] we happen to come across a case that is beyond our capacities, we call upon them and they already started doing that."

Bujumbura has seen protests almost every day since the president announced his plans last month to run for a third term. Demonstrators say Nkurunziza is violating a two-term limit in the constitution, but Burundi's constitutional court ruled he could run because he was elected by parliament, not voters, for his first term in 2005.

Nkurunziza vowed in a speech Wednesday that if he is re-elected, it will be his last term. He also called for an end to the protests, saying it is important the June 26 elections be held in a peaceful atmosphere.

Human rights groups say the government and its supporters are using violence and intimidation against the protesters and opposition. On Wednesday, security forces arrested one of the presidential candidates accused of organizing protests.

Independent presidential candidate Agathon Rwasa said he is also a target for his political stand.

"I got a tip from somebody in the police. He told me, 'See guy, take care, there are men there who are coming to hunt you.' They could harm me and it's something which is really hard to understand," he said. "If Nkurunziza pretends to be strong, why then is he seeking to annihilate his opponents? Why? It's a proof that really he is only strong for violence, not strong for democracy."

Rwasa's wife was attacked and injured last month by armed gunmen in Bujumbura.

President Nkurunziza is expected to officially present his candidacy papers to the electoral commission this Saturday.