Burundi Begins Probe Into Violence Groups Say Killed 154 People

  • Groups say security seized civilians after attacks on barracks
  • Justice minister says investigation begun into Dec. 11 events

At least 154 civilians were killed in Burundi’s capital last week, human-rights groups said, as authorities vowed an investigation into the most violent day of the East African nation’s eight-month political crisis.

Security forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza conducted sweeping arrests in areas of Bujumbura in the aftermath of Dec. 11 attacks by unidentified gunmen on military barracks, the Paris-based Worldwide Movement for Human Rights and Ligue Iteka, a local group, said in a statement. At least 300 young men were seized, with more than half allegedly killed and the remainder missing, they said.

Army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza previously said that 87 people died in the events, including eight security officers and “enemies” who hid after the raids on the military. Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana said Thursday an inquiry had begun into alleged killings of civilians. “No one is above the law -- investigations have started,” she told reporters in Bujumbura.

Landlocked Burundi, which holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, descended into violence in April when Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, which he won in July. Critics say he violated a two-term limit in a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war. More than 300 people have been killed in the past eight months.

The United Nations human rights agency said this week that Burundi had taken “a new step towards outright civil war,” with tensions “at bursting point” in the capital.

MAP: Burundi

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