Security forces in Burundi have killed at least 14 armed men who had intended to launch an attack in the northwestern province of Bubanza, police and residents said.
Police deputy spokesman Moise Nkurunziza said on state broadcaster RTNB that the men, said to be from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), entered the province at dawn on Tuesday and were killed in the district of Musigati.
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“Dismantlement… of a group of armed criminals from the DRC,” the country’s security ministry wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Fourteen criminals were killed and 11 guns they were carrying seized,” it added.
While the ministry did not say whether any police officers were killed, witnesses and local administration sources said that several had died, AFP news agency reported.
The group had the “intention of repeating the carnage of Ruhagarika“, the security ministry said, referring to an attack last year that killed at least 26 people days before a constitutional referendum that cleared the way for President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034.
Last month, the United Nations warned that Burundi was at risk of a new wave of atrocities as it approaches next year’s election with an unresolved political crisis and a president increasingly portrayed as a “divine” ruler.
“It is extremely dangerous to speak out critically in Burundi today,” commission chief Doudou Diene said in a statement.
“The 2020 elections pose a major risk,” the report said, adding the government was increasing control over NGOs and there was no real multi-party system, since most parties had been “infiltrated and divided”.
The government said the report did not reflect reality.