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Burundi calm after worst violence in months

13 December 2015, 17:21

Nairobi - The streets of Burundi's capital Bujumbura were calm as life returned to normal Sunday, two days after nearly 90 people were killed in some of the worst violence in months of unrest.

The army said 87 people were killed -- 79 "enemies" and eight soldiers, according to Colonel Gaspard Baratuza -- during and after coordinated assaults on three military installations early on Friday morning.

Several witnesses accused the security forces of extrajudicial killings in the hours following the attacks, describing officers breaking down doors in search of young men and shooting them at close range.

Some of the victims had their arms tied behind their backs, they said.

US rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Sunday for a "serious and independent" enquiry to be carried out urgently into the latest violence.

"This is by far the most serious incident, with the highest number of victims, since the start of the crisis in April," Carina Tertsakian, HRW's researcher for Burundi, said in a statement.

"A serious, independent investigation is urgently needed to find out the exact circumstances in which these people were killed," she said.

The government was quick to clear bodies from the streets, burying them in mass graves, with critics saying the move aimed to prevent further investigation of the deaths and to disguise the real number of people killed.

Friday's fighting was the worst outbreak since a failed May coup, sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in office, which he later won in disputed elections in July.

Residents of Bujumbura have become used to routine shootings, assassinations and armed attacks during eight months of unrest, and despite the scale and severity of the most recent violence the city was calm on Sunday.

UN figures released before Friday's violence showed at least 240 people had been killed and more than 200,000 had fled abroad since May, raising fears of a return to civil war, a decade after the end of a 1993-2006 conflict between rebels from the Hutu majority and an army dominated by minority Tutsis.

Some 300,000 people were killed in the war, which began a year before a genocide of mostly Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda.



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