Three people were killed in the south of Burundi after a clash between police and gunmen in the latest in a series of violent incidents that have increased fears of a new insurgency in the central African nation.
Burundi has enjoyed relative peace since the former rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) laid down their weapons and joined the government in 2009 after two decades of insurgency.
In the latest incident, two armed men and a police officer were killed in a clash on Tuesday in Kizuka village in the southern district of Rumonge, Gerard Ndikumana, a district official, said on Wednesday.
“Businesses closed and some people fled their homes due to heavy gunfire exchanged between the police and the attackers,” he told Reuters.
Police confirmed the incident but declined to give further details.
Tuesday’s attack came after nine people died last month in a confrontation between Burundi security forces and groups of gunmen.
Last week, army chief Major General Godefroid Niyombare blamed bandits for the attacks. But the main Tutsi party, Uprona, which is in the coalition government led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, said on Tuesday that the current attacks bear the hallmarks of a new rebellion.
Uprona called upon Burundi authorities to address the issue seriously by starting talks with the opposition.
Last month the International Crisis Group think-tank urged President Pierre Nkurunziza to open dialogue with opposition leaders who fled the country after last year’s elections, in order to prevent the country from slipping into another civil war.
Among Nkurunziza’s opponents in exile is former rebel leader and FNL boss Agathon Rwasa. Rwasa is in hiding, saying he fled to avoid arrest by Burundi’s government, which has accused him of planning a new insurgency.
Rwasa was a presidential candidate in Burundi’s 2010 elections but withdrew from the race, accusing the ruling CNDD-FDD party of rigging the vote.