Burundi Police Sweep Capital for Arms After Attacks Kill 13

  • Civilians killed in two districts of capital, raid on bar
  • President gave opponents until weekend to surrender weapons

At least 13 people died in Burundi’s capital at the weekend as President Pierre Nkurunziza faced growing criticism over his handling of violence that’s been escalating since his disputed re-election in July.

Unidentified gunmen stormed a bar in Bujumbura’s southern Kanyosha neighborhood on Saturday, shooting indiscriminately at customers and staff, the Associated Press reported, citing witnesses. Seven bodies were found at the scene, while two people who fled died later in the hospital, AP said.

Four people were also found dead Saturday in the city’s Ngagara and Mutakura districts, local official Remy Barampama said in an interview. Residents have been fleeing Mutakura since last week, describing the sound of heavy gunfire and scenes of dead bodies on the streets. Security forces searched house-to-house in the district on Sunday.

Violence in the East African nation that holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves has killed more than 120 people and forced 180,000 others to flee their homes since April, when Nkurunziza announced his bid for another term. The International Crisis Group says Burundi is facing “the possibility of mass atrocities and civil war.”

MAP: Burundi

Opponents say Nkurunziza’s July re-election violates a two-term limit set out in peace accords that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005. Last week, he said insurgents accused of killing police and government officials had until Nov. 8 to surrender their weapons, a deadline the U.S. warned could spur wider bloodshed.

Soldiers and police officers began searching homes in Bujumbura’s Musaga district on Monday, resident Elie Nijimbere said. Security Minister Allain Guillaume Bunyoni told reporters that government forces had recovered some weapons during operations and encountered no resistance. He didn’t give further details.

Paul Kagame, the president of neighboring Rwanda, last week accused Burundi’s leaders of carrying out “massacres” on their people, Agence France-Presse reported.

“People die every day, corpses litter the streets,” AFP cited Kagame as saying during an awards ceremony in the capital, Kigali, on Nov. 6. “How can the leaders allow their population to be massacred from morning to night?”

Burundi expelled a Rwandan diplomat last month and has accused its neighbor of training insurgents opposed to Nkurunziza’s rule.

The U.K. Foreign Office also criticized the government’s handling of the violence and urged it to take “every possible step” to stabilize the country.

“Some of the language used by Burundi’s leaders over the last few days echoes language used 21 years ago to which the world did not pay sufficient attention,” James Duddridge, parliamentary under-secretary of state, said in a statement, referring to a genocide in Rwanda in 1994 that left at least 800,000 people dead. “Your government will be held responsible for violence against Burundian citizens in coming weeks.”

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