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Activist: 70 Killed in Burundi Political Turmoil Since April

FILE - Three men walk in handcuffs after being arrested as organizers of an opposition demonstration, which was dispersed by police firing in the air, in Jenda, Burundi, June 12, 2015.

At least 70 civilians have been killed in clashes with Burundi's security forces since the start of anti-government protests in April, a rights activist said Friday.

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, who heads Burundi's influential rights group APRODH (Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons), also said 500 people have been wounded, and more than 1,000 jailed and dozens of prisoners tortured in weeks of political violence in Burundi.

Bujumbura, the capital, has been tense since April 26, when protests began after the ruling party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate in elections now scheduled for July 15. Protesters say a third term would be unconstitutional.

Mbonimpa said his group has representatives across the nation that have been tallying the death toll as well as visiting with prisoners. He also said he had personally helped several protesters who suffered torture to get treatment.

Bullets, grenades

"We have identified 70 people killed, mostly by bullets but also grenades ... the majority are civilians, as well as police and soldiers," Mbonimpa said. "There were also some 500 wounded by bullets, grenades and stones, including 50 remain hospitalized."

A police spokesman, Pierre Nkurikiye, denied the torture allegations but didn't say how many people are in custody over protesting against a third term for Nkurunziza.

The Red Cross in Burundi said that in Bujumbura alone at least 24 civilians have been killed and 591 more wounded in unrest.

More than 100,000 people have fled the violence to neighboring countries.

Material for this report came from AP and AFP.