BUJUMBURA, Burundi: Seven people were killed in an overnight attack at a bar in the latest violence in the Burundi capital, witnesses said Sunday.
Neighbors found bloodied bodies lying on the floor after gunshots were heard Saturday night at the bar in the Kanyosha neighborhood, south of Bujumbura.
Venant Rwakiranya, who lives near the bar and saw the bodies, said Sunday that the bar’s owner, his nephew and one of his employees were among the victims.
The gunmen ordered everyone seated outside the bar to move inside before they started shooting indiscriminately, said another witness, who requested anonymity because of safety concerns.
International concern is growing over the security situation in the central African nation, which been hit by unrest following the president’s decision to seek more time in office.
At least 198 people have been killed in Burundi since late April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid that was ultimately successful for a third term in office, according to U.N. officials. The actual death toll is likely much higher, as many of the killings go unreported.
A government-issued deadline to turn in illegal weapons or face extraordinary police action expired midnight Saturday and Nkurunziza has urged the security forces to use all means necessary to restore order.
State Department spokesperson John Kirby, in a statement Saturday, said the U.S. was “particularly concerned” that the recent “inflammatory rhetoric” of some government officials and Nkurunziza ‘s planned security crackdown this weekend “are increasing the risk of an outbreak of mass violence in Burundi.”
Although the current violence appears to be political, Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country’s Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Nkurunziza took power in 2005 near the end of a civil war in which some 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006.
Human Rights Watch said Saturday that in the last two days some neighborhoods in Bujumbura “have started to empty” as panicked people flee to areas where they consider less dangerous.