7 Burundi gunmen killed in battles – governor

At least seven gunmen have been killed in battles with security forces in Burundi, a governor said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of clashes in the troubled east African nation.

Gunmen and soldiers fought on Tuesday in the eastern district of Gitega, a government stronghold, the province’s governor Venant Manirambona said.

The deaths take the number killed in clashes this week to at least 14, unrest triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid to win a third term in office.

“There were clashes in the town of Nyarusange between security forces and an armed group… seven of these criminals were killed,” Manirambona told AFP by telephone.

The UN has warned that Burundi risks sliding back into civil war after a dramatic rise in killings, arrests and detentions, with over 200 000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries.

At least 200 people have been killed in Burundi since violence broke out in April, with a third of those in the past month alone, the UN says.

At least three people – including a policeman – were killed in battles in the capital Bujumbura on Monday and Tuesday, where attacks have included gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns on security forces.

Others suggested the number killed was far higher, and one police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said that “many were killed from our ranks,” without giving further details.

The government blamed “criminal gangs.”

Four others – three gunmen and a policeman – were killed in gun battles overnight Monday some 80km east of Bujumbura, in the central government stronghold district of Mwanro, a local government official said. As many as 50 gunmen took part in the attack, reports suggested.

Opponents said Nkurunziza’s re-election breached the terms of a peace deal that paved the way to ending a 13-year civil war in 2006.