Two Burundi protesters wounded by police gunfire: witnesses

A boy walks bearing a flag of Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy) party during a party rally in Bujumbura on July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Carl De Souza)

Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - Two protesters opposed to a controversial bid by Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term were wounded Thursday when police opened fire at a demonstration in the capital, witnesses said.

The protest was held as the ruling CNDD-FDD held a meeting days away from a planned July 21 presidential election.

Burundi's crisis began in late April when Nkurunziza announced his intention to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, despite a constitutional two-term limit, sparking months of turmoil and an attempted coup in mid-May.

Scores have been killed in months of protests, with over 158,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

On Thursday, anti-Nkurunziza activists chanted down supporters of the president's bid. Slogans gave way to insults, said witnesses who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

As tension mounted at the scene, police officers deployed to secure the CNDD-FDD's meeting place opened fire, wounding two civilians, the witnesses said.

Police spokesman Pierre Nkurukiye told AFP he had received no information about the incident.

Gunfire and grenade explosions hit the capital again in recent nights, as has been common over the past weeks.

Burundian military sources also reported fresh clashes with rebels in a forested area in the north of the country and near the border with Rwanda.

Regional heads of state appointed Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni mediator last week in the hope of ending months of crisis. The efforts continued in Burundi on Thursday, with Uganda's defence minister standing in for Museveni.

With the presidential election looming there are only a few days to seal a deal between the opposing sides. The government has so far rejected opposition demands for a further delay of the presidential vote.

Nkurunziza's ruling party scored a widely-expected landslide win in parliamentary polls held on May 29, but these were boycotted by the opposition and condemned internationally as neither free nor fair.