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Burundi leader calls for calm after coup attempt

14 May 2015, 14:01

Bujumbura - Burundi's president called for calm on Thursday, after heavy clashes erupted between government supporters and followers of military coup leader Godefroid Niyombare in the capital, Bujumbura.

"The protests now taking place, especially in the capital of our country, have caused enormous and manifold damage," President Pierre Nkurunziza said in a statement.

He also appealed for calm from neighbouring Tanzania, via his Twitter page, where he has been stuck since the coup attempt.

Explosions and gun shots could be heard since the early hours of Thursday in Bujumbura.

Four private radio stations, which Niyombare's supporters used to announce the coup attempt, were burnt down overnight by government-aligned police forces, witnesses said.

The clashes come a day after Niyombare, the former intelligence chief, seized power while the president was away at an East African summit in Tanzania.

Also read: Burundi army divided after coup attempt

Fears of renewed ethnic violence

Nkurunziza, who insists the coup failed, was unable to return to Burundi after Niyombare closed the airport and the country's frontiers.

The president spent the night in Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam, under heavy security.

Niyombare was sacked from his intelligence job by Nkurunziza earlier this year after criticising the president's bid to seek a third term in elections on June 26.

Nkurunziza's announcement has sparked massive protests that have turned deadly in recent weeks. Human rights activists say more than 20 people have been killed since the protests began.

The unrest sparked fears of renewed ethnic violence in Burundi, where the 1993-2005 civil war pitting Hutus and Tutsis killed an estimated 300 000 people.

More than 50 000 Burundians have now fled to neighbouring countries, according to the United Nations.



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