Several killed in sporadic clashes ahead of Burundi elections


A masked Burundian protester demonstrates against the president's bid for a third term on May 1, 2015, in Bujumbura.

BUJUMBURA, Burundi - At least seven people have died and 66 others wounded in nearly a week of clashes between police and protestors in the central African nation of Burundi, officials said on Friday.

Giving an overall toll of those injured in the violence, Burundian Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza said 29 people were hurt in Thursday&39;s clashes, bringing to 66 the number of wounded since the violence began on Sunday.

Sporadic clashes continued in parts of the capital Bujumbura on Friday, witnesses said, while hundreds of university students -- whose student lodgings have been closed by the government -- have been camping outside the US embassy, saying they want protection.

The unrest broke out after the ruling CNDD-FDD party designated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate in the next presidential election, which is due to be held in the small central African nation on June 26.

Opposition figures and rights groups say that Nkurunziza&39;s attempt to stand for a third consecutive term violates the constitution as well as a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.

Medical sources said many of those hurt in the clashes suffered gunshot wounds, allegedly at the hands of police who fired into crowds with live ammunition.

Red Cross and medical sources said three people were killed on the first day of protests, and three later that night in an alleged attack by ruling party militia forces. A solider was also shot dead on Thursday when an intelligence officer opened fire near a barricade erected by protesters.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian from the Hutu majority, has been in power for two terms since 2005.

His supporters say he is eligible to run again, since his first term in office followed his election by parliament -- not directly by the people as the constitution specifies.

Small protests continued on Friday, with the government also forced to move its scheduled May 1 parade from the city centre -- to where demonstrators have been trying to march all week -- to another part of the capital "so that protestors don&39;t try to disrupt the event," Bujumbura&39;s mayor Saidi Juma told AFP.

On Thursday US envoy warned the situation in the country remains "very dangerous", and warned that Washington could impose targeted sanctions over the crisis.

"The position of the United States on the issue of a third term is one that is clear," said Tom Malinowski, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

"The current situation is very, very dangerous, and that some of the measures that have been taken, including in recent days, to shut down social media, to suspend radio stations not only are wrong as a matter of principle but very counter-productive," he added.



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