Burundi’s army chief survives assassination attempt

Burundi’s chief of armed forces survives deadly assassination attempt in Bujumbura

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Burundi's President President Pierre Nkurunziza delivers his speech after being sworn-in for a third term following his re-election at the Congress Palace in Kigobe district, Bujumbura, August 20, 2015

Burundi's armed forces chief survived an assassination attempt on Friday in the capital Bujumbura, police told the AFP.

"There was an attack against the armed forces chief, General Prime Niyongabo, but happily he was unharmed," Burundi's deputy police chief, General Godefroid Bizimana, told AFP.

At least seven other people died in the attack.

Unnamed senior police source said the attack appeared to have been "meticulously prepared".

"Reinforcements have arrived. We are pursuing the remainder of the commandos," Bizimana said.

"It was sudden and violent. Four bodyguards were killed instantly. He managed to survive only because the driver managed to overtake a bus transporting police officers to work, and the attackers could not keep up," said the source.

Two attackers were killed in the clash, and a third arrested, according to Bizimana.

Another senior police source told AFP that four bodyguards also died in the attack, as well as a female police officer.

The attackers were reportedly wearing military uniforms and travelling in a military vehicle.

The attack came after the spokesman of the Burundi's opposition Union for Peace and Democracy Party (UPD), Patrice Gahungu, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Bujumbura on Monday, according to the deputy police chief Godfroid Bizimana, reported by Agence France-Presse.

It is the latest incident in the series of killings of politicians in Brundi, a country which is swept by political turmoil since April.

The spokesman’s widow, Clemence Nsabiyimbona, told Reuters that “It is a political assassination because he had no problem with anyone. In this country when you openly oppose the ruling party and the government, you are automatically an enemy worth being killed.”

Chauvineau Mugwengezo, the honorary president of UPD living in exile, also claimed the government had arranged Gahungu’s killing.

“This heinous crime is part of a series of assassinations targeting all those who dared to say that his third term is illegal,” he told Agence France-Presse, adding that the UPD, which rejected the credibility of the elections, was targeted because it had previously accepted members who had split from Nkurunziza and defected to the party.

But a police source said the UPD spokesman might have been killed by his party members because “he had publicly congratulated President Nkurunziza for his re-election, which had attracted the wrath of his camp.”   

In May, the former opposition party leader was shot and killed alongside his bodyguard in the capital city, Bujumbura.

Since an ethnically-driven civil war ended in 2005, Burundi has been dragged through its worst political crisis.

The bloody unrest over Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid sparked violent protests and plunged the country in an unprecedented crises which killed over 70 people and wounded more than 500.

More than 100,000 people have fled to neighbouring nations since the political violence that culminated in last week's foiled coup attempt erupted in April, according to the UN.

Nkurunziza was announced the winner of the July 21 election following months of street protests and a foiled coup.

TRTWorld and agencies