In what is being described as one of the worst instances of what has become a daily occurrence, the bodies of 87 people appeared in the street in Bujumbura, Burundi on Saturday morning, according to Al Jazeera.
“The final toll of the attacks yesterday is 79 enemies killed, 45 captured and 97 weapons seized, and on our side eight soldiers and policemen were killed and 21 wounded,” Colonel Gaspard Baratuza with the Burundian military was quoted with regard to the violence.
Among the dead, some were said to be “kids” who had been shot “execution-style” through the top of their heads, including a group who reportedly had their hands tied behind their backs when they were found in the street.
Bujumbura and Burundi as a nation have been the subject of regular violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that he would seek a third term in office in April. Seen as unconstitutional by many, his bid was declared constitutional by courts in May, resulting in uprisings that sparked the displacement of tens of thousands of refugees. Since that time, an estimated 200,000 have fled Burundi for other countries, according to BBC. Many political dissidents are said to be held in Burundian jails as well.
After the army failed at an attempt to overthrow Nkurunziza in a coup, he won reelection in July. The elections were described as a “joke” by Agathon Rwasa, the leader of the Burundian opposition. In November, opposition groups were ordered to surrender their arms.
Friday was reportedly witness to some of the heaviest fighting since the violence in Burundi began earlier in 2015. Armed gunmen stormed military positions in Bujumbura, Ngagara, Mujejuru, and Musaga in what were described as “coordinated attacks.” Gunfire and explosions were said to be heard throughout the day.
After the attacks, witnesses said that members of the military went from home to home “rounding up” those suspected of being involved. Their bodies were found in the streets Saturday morning. Of the 87 dead, 79 were described as being rebels and eight as being police officers and soldiers. Additionally, 21 people were wounded and a number of guns and other weapons were taken.
Friday night’s death toll is reported to be the highest of any single event since the Burundian violence began in the spring and the fighting to be some of the most intense.
Pierre Nkurikiye with the Burundian police reported that there were no civilian casualties during Friday’s violence.
“All the deaths were attackers killed in the joint sweep operation of the army and police,” Nkurikiye was quoted. “The enemy was neutralized.”
Burundi suffered through a civil war between 1993 and 2006 that resulted in the deaths of 300,000. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful move to secure a third term in office was seen as violating the terms of a treaty that brought an end to the civil war by many Burundians.
The United Nations has issued statements urging that it is not as well-positioned to offer assistance as it was during the genocide in Rwanda that occurred in the mid-1990s. Burundi is the second-poorest country in the world, and has a population of 10.4 million. Almost 85 percent of the population are ethnic Hutu, and about 14 percent are Tutsi. The life-expectancy for the average person in only 50 years.
President Nkurunziza was reported to have led a Hutu group against Burundi’s then-Tutsi controlled army in the 1990s civil war, which was perpetuated by the 1993 murder of Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye.
Recent violence has spurred fears that fighting could lead to a return of ethnic tensions and more violence still. During a 100-day period between April and July 1994 between 500,000 and 1 million were murdered in neighboring Rwanda. This amounted to 70 percent of the Tutsi population and to 20 percent of the population of Rwanda as a whole.
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