U.S. to sanction four in Burundi over violence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will sanction four current and former Burundi government officials, including the minister of public security, over ongoing violence in the country, the White House said on Monday. The White House said it has received multiple reports of targeted killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and political repression by security forces in Burundi. The White House said Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza's pursuit of a third term in office has precipitated the crisis. Thousands initially protested against the president and opposed his re-election in a disputed July vote. Various vigilante units have been formed, and more than 200 people have been killed in violence since April. The White House said the crisis has forced more than 200,000 Burundians to become refugees. The executive order sanctions Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, minister of public security; Godefroid Bizimana, deputy director-general of the national police; Godefroid Niyombare, major general and former chief of Burundi's intelligence service; and Cyrille Ndayirukiye, former minister of defense. The order also leaves open the possibility of additional sanctions against those who have supported violence, human rights abuses and attacks against United Nations peace keeping missions. The individuals who were sanctioned will face visa restrictions and blocked assets. "Burundi is on the precipice, but there is a clear path available to Burundi's leaders to avoid further violence and reach a political solution to the crisis," said White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Julia Edwards; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jeffrey Benkoe)