Sunday, November 8, 2015 2:22 pm
Gunmen executed nine people in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital hours before police launched house-to-house searches for weapons on Sunday, with President Paul Kagame of neighbouring Rwanda accusing Burundi leaders of killing their people.
Hundreds of police and soldiers ringed the opposition flashpoint Mutakura district of the capital Bujumbura early Sunday to start a widely feared crackdown on “enemies of the nation.”
Residents said security forces were carrying out house-to-house searches.
“The police started the search operation for hidden weapons in Mutakura,” city mayor Freddy Mbonimpa said, adding the raids were being “done professionally, because the police are using weapon detectors.”
The mayor said seven people were killed in an “execution” attack on a bar on Saturday night, adding that a probe had been launched to track the “assassins.” Two others later died of their wounds.
Witnesses said attackers stormed into the bar, forcing those drinking outside to enter and lie on the ground before opening fire.
International alarm has grown as a government amnesty ended to hand in weapons ended with fears that it will trigger further violence and drawing warnings from the head of the UN, Washington and the world’s only permanent war crimes court.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has accused Burundi’s leaders of carrying out “massacres” on their people in his most critical speech yet of the crisis in the troubled neighbouring state.
“People die every day, corpses litter the streets… How can the leaders allow their population to be massacred from morning to night?” Kagame said, speaking in Kinyarwanda on Friday, in a speech heard by AFP on Sunday.
Relations between Rwanda and Burundi are tense, with Bujumbura accusing Kigali of backing those who oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term in office.
Burundi has been hit by waves of violence since Nkurunziza launched his successful bid to win a third term, with bodies found dumped in the streets on a nearly daily basis.
People in largely opposition areas have fled Bujumbura, leaving key districts that have seen some of the worst recent violence almost empty.
But one resident of Mutakura district, who asked not to be named, said that while many had fled ahead of the security operation, “mostly men have stayed behind to protect their belongings.”
The security warnings have sparked intense fear.
But apart from the bar attack, the city was otherwise reported to be largely calm overnight, the mayor said.