US warns its citizens to leave after violence claims the lives of at least 79 anti-government protesters and eight soldiers
UPDATES WITH U.S. TRAVEL WARNING
BUJUMBUR/ NAIROBI – The situation in Burundi remained tense on Sunday as the military confirmed that at least 79 anti-government protesters and eight soldiers were killed in clashes following a triple bomb attack in the capital Bujumbura on Friday.
Army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza told a press conference Saturday that the recent clashes left 87 people dead.
“Seventy-nine rebels [anti-government protesters] and eight soldiers were killed; 21 police officers were injured and 45 prisoners were also seized by the security,” Baratuza said.
The clashes took place after three separate bomb attacks on military camps in Bujumbura on Friday left 12 assailants and five soldiers dead, the spokesman added.
Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that police were carrying out search operations in the area and had arrested several youths.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department warned against potential travel to the country, and urged American nationals in Burundi to “depart as soon as it is feasible to do so”.
The U.S. embassy there is able to “offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens” following the departure of all non-essential personnel on Sunday, the department said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Burundians in the Kenyan capital Nairobi organized a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims in their country.
Several hash tags, including “#PrayforBurundi” and “#Burundivigil”, also began to trend on social media sites.
Burundi has been gripped by instability since April when the ruling party — the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy — named Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate for the presidency. Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005.
Many opposition supporters and some backers of Nkurunziza have been killed amid the turmoil.
According to the UN, at least 240 people have been killed in Burundi since the outbreak of the political and security crisis in April 2015.
(Anadolu Agency’s Andrew Ross contributed to the report from Kenya)