Four killed in fresh Burundi unrest: police, witnesses

Burundi descended into violence in April after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a bid for a third consecutive term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move (AFP Photo/Landry Nshimiye) (AFP/File)

Nairobi (AFP) - At least four people have died in renewed clashes in Burundi, where tensions remain high following President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial re-election, officials and witnesses said Wednesday.

Police and witnesses said clashes erupted overnight in several parts of the central African nation's capital Bujumbura, with the night marked by sporadic gunfire and explosions. Police blamed armed "insurgents" for the violence.

"Two insurgents were killed this morning when they fired on police in Jabe (district) and their weapons were seized," deputy police chief Godefroid Bizimana told AFP, adding that search operations were ongoing.

Two more bodies were found on Wednesday between the districts of Musaga and Kanyosha, witnesses and official sources said.

"Since this morning, the district of Musaga is ringed by police and the army. The security forces are carrying out a systematic search of the area to look for weapons," Bizimana said.

Witnesses said the fresh unrest, which comes after several days of relative calm, was sparked by the alleged killing of two opposition activists by police on Sunday.

The president won a highly-controversial third term in July in polls the United Nations said were not free or fair, and which sparked an attempted coup and months of civil unrest led by opposition groups who condemned his re-election bid as unconstitutional.

There has also been a string of killings since his re-election, including the assassination of his top security chief in a rocket attack last month.

Nkurunziza won over 69 percent of the vote in July's presidential election, giving him a landslide first round victory. The poll, however, was boycotted by the opposition.

Burundi's constitution only allows a president to be elected twice -- for a total of 10 years in power -- but Nkurunziza argued ahead of the poll that he had only been directly elected by the people once.

In power since 2005, when he was selected by parliament, he then was re-elected in 2010.