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Burundians celebrate as president ousted in coup

13 May 2015, 16:45

Bujumbura - An army general said on a private radio station in Burundi on Wednesday that President Pierre Nkurunziza's mandate is over, however whether he had the support of the military was unclear as gunfire echoed in the streets.

Nkurunziza was believed to be in the neighboring country of Tanzania for a conference to end the unrest.

Protesters were in the streets again Wednesday, protesting the president's bid for a third term. In some neighborhoods, they battled past police in an effort to reach the downtown area. One policeman was seen opening fire on protesters.

Army troops surrounded state radio. Whom they were loyal too was not immediately clear.

Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare read a statement on Bonesha FM radio, saying the president had violated the Constitution and the Arusha peace accords by seeking a third term in June elections.

"Given the necessity to preserve the country's integrity ... The president Pierre Nkunrunzia is dismissed from his functions," Niyombare said.

He announced the creation of a temporary ruling committee to re-establish stability of which he is the president.

Thousands of people were in the streets of Bujumbura in one of the largest turnouts in protests over Nkurunziza's bid for a third term. Protesters say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term is illegal.

Police also fired tear gas and water cannons to repulse protesters trying to enter the central business district of Bujumbura. A group of women protesters managed to infiltrate the police cordon and entered the central business district.

An Associated Press journalist was present when a police officer fired around five single shots at the protesters in Bujumbura. Whether there were casualties was unclear.

Nkurunziza has joined other East African Community leaders from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam for a special meeting to discuss the turmoil in Burundi. The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has also traveled to Dar es Salaam to contribute to the emergency meeting, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.

Thomas-Greenfield will express U.S. concern about the situation in Burundi as well as U.S. support for the Arusha Agreement which ended Burundi's civil war a decade ago and political dialogue among all parties to ensure peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi, the statement said.

At least 15 people have been killed and more than 220 have been injured in the protests, according to Burundi's Red Cross. The protests started on April 25 after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to run for re-election in elections set for June.

Burundi's Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first term, leaving him open to be popularly elected to two terms.

More than 50,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries fearing violence ahead of the elections, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

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- AP


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