At least nine people were killed in an overnight attack at a bar in the latest violence in Burundi’s capital, as security forces went door-to-door to disarm civilians in neighbourhoods seen as opposition strongholds.
Residents found seven bloodied bodies lying on the floor after gunshots were heard on Saturday night at a bar in the Kanyosha area, in southern Bujumbura. Two others who fled the scene later died in a hospital, witnesses said.
The attack comes as international concern grows over the security situation in the central African nation, which has been hit by unrest following the president’s decision to extend his time in power.
In Saturday’s attack, the bar’s owner, his nephew and one of his employees were reported to be among the victims.
The gunmen ordered everyone seated on the bar’s terrace to move inside before they began shooting indiscriminately, a witness said.
The witness added that he was grilling meats for customers when the attack started.
The bar’s owner, believing the attackers to be robbers, asked his customers to hand over all cash and valuables, which they did, but then one of the gunmen opened fire.
Yesterday, the security forces were combing the Mutakura neighbourhood, searching homes for unlicensed weapons. Civilians are not allowed to enter or leave the neighbourhood while the operation is underway.
A government-issued deadline to turn in illegal weapons or face extraordinary police action expired at midnight on Saturday and President Pierre Nkurunziza has urged the security forces to use all means necessary to stamp out resistance. Many residents blame the police and security forces for the killings.
In the last two days some neighbourhoods in Bujumbura emptied out as panicked residents fled to areas seen as less dangerous, Human Rights Watch said.
At least 198 people have been killed in Burundi since late April, when Nkurunziza announced his bid that was ultimately successful for a third term in office, according to UN officials. The actual death toll is likely to be far higher.
Although the current violence appears to be political, Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country’s Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
Nkurunziza took power in 2005 near the end of a civil war in which some 300,000 people were killed.