A rocket allegedly fired by Hutu rebels from the National Liberation Forces (FNL), exploded in the courtyard of a bank, killing two workers and injuring two others, according to a government official cited by AFP.

Another rocket exploded on the roof of a stall in Bujumbura’s central marketplace, causing people to flee in panic and sending debris flying, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

Residents said government troops used mortars and helicopter gunships overnight to push back the rebels to the surrounding hills.

The rebels then responded by firing five mortar bombs into the city centre in an effort  to keep the momentum on their strongest attack in months on the Tutsi-dominated government.

Latest offensive

The FNL rebels launched their latest offensive on Monday by attacking Bujumbura from the south. Fighting around  the suburbs of Musaga, Kinanria and Kanyosha over the past two days has left at least 28 people dead including 17 rebel fighters.

Burundi’s President Domitien Ndayizeye was defiant in a radio interview late on Tuesday saying his government had sufficient force to push back the rebels.

The FNL, the second largest rebel group, says it is fighting  to reverse what it calls 400 years of Tutsi supremacy and vows  to keep fighting to pressure Ndayizeye to negotiate with them

Interior Minister Salvatore Ntihabose accused the largest Hutu rebel group, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD),  of helping the FNL's attack. The FDD has denied the charge.
 
Fighting has continued in Burundi despite a largely disregarded ceasefire signed in December 2002 by the FDD and the government. The FNL has refused to sign the deal.

Ndayizeye, a Hutu, took over the presidency on 30 April from a Tutsi under a peace plan that envisages his rule as a sign of change in a country historically dominated by minority Tutsis.