BUJUMBURA, Sep 19 – Armed raiders killed more than 20 people and wounded about 20 others when they stormed a Burundi bar and opened fire on patrons in one of the country’s worst attacks in months, an official said on Monday.
“The death toll is still unclear, but according to the first reports that I received, there are between 24 and 30 dead and around 20 injured, some of them in a critical state,” said Vianney Mutabazi, the administrator of the region where the attack occurred on Sunday night.
The attackers raided a bar in Gatumba area, some 13 kilometres (eight miles) west of the capital Bujumbura, which lies in a stronghold of the former National Liberation Forces rebels whose leader Agathon Rwasa has been blamed for a recent spate of attacks.
Mutabazi said up to 16 people were killed on the spot and several others died of their injuries on their way to hospital.
Witnesses said the attack lasted about 20 minutes.
“Those who attacked us are not just bandits. They are fighters, rebels. I swear because I saw them,” said one wounded victim who did not want to be identified.
“Dozens of people, some in (military) uniform and with Kalashnikov (rifles) and grenades entered ‘Chez les Amis’ bar. They told everyone to lie down and began shooting,” said a survivor who lost two siblings and a friend.
Hospitals were swamped with the injured and doctors struggled to cope with the influx. At one hospital, bodies lay covered in blood-soaked linen on the floor and others in the parking lot, an AFP correspondent said.
Some of the wounded were being treated in hospital corridors crowded with crying relatives.
“We are totally overwhelmed. We are lacking blood, equipment and medicine to treat all the injured,” said a doctor who gave his name only as Leonard.
Genocide-scarred Burundi has suffered a spate of attacks since elections last year when the opposition boycotted the vote, accusing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s party of rigging.
Authorities have blamed the attacks on unidentified armed bandits.
Last week, Rwasa accused state officials of massacring and torturing more than 100 of his supporters.
Hundreds of opposition members have also been detained since the 2010 elections, according to some opposition leaders who have urged the government to free them.
The small central African country is still struggling to emerge from 13 years of civil war that erupted in 1993 and left some 300,000 people dead. The escalating violence has raised fears of a resumption of all-out conflict.