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Death toll from day of clashes in Bujumbura

By on December 14, 2015

Nearly 90 people were killed during Friday’s clashes in Bujumbura, the army said, the worst outbreak of violence in Burundi since a failed coup in May.

Blasts and gunfire echoed around Bujumbura for most of Friday and residents said officials spent the day collecting bullet-riddled bodies from city streets.

Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza said on Saturday gunmen had attacked three military sites in Bujumbura, kindling a day of clashes across the city. He said 79 attackers were killed and 45 others captured. Four police officers and four soldiers also died.

Unrest erupted in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term in office. A 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005, pitted rebel groups of the Hutu majority, including one led by Nkurunziza, against an army then led by the Tutsi minority.

Friday’s clashes were condemned by the United States, which like other Western powers fears the Central African nation could slide back into ethnic conflict.

The police did not identify the gunmen. One of the generals behind the failed coup attempt said afterwards that his rebel group still aimed to topple the president.

Residents said some of Friday’s dead were killed after being rounded up by the police in house-to-house searches, an allegation the police denied.

According to witnesses and pictures circulated on social media, some bodies had their hands tied behind their backs.

“They entered in our compounds, gathered all young and middle-aged men, took them and killed them away from their homes,” said one resident in Nyakabiga.

More than 220,000 people have fled the violence this year to neighbouring Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Congo.

Former colonial power Belgium on Sunday condemned the violence in Burundi and called for an investigation.

In a draft 2016 budget passed by the cabinet on Friday, Burundi plans to slash public spending by 16 percent next year and expects foreign aid to almost halve.

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