Heavy gunfire at Burundi protests as poll delayed

May 20, 2015 1:20 pm
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Protestors opposed to a third term for the Burundian President hitch a ride on a police vehicle past a burning barricade in the Cibitoke neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 19, 2015/AFP
Protestors opposed to a third term for the Burundian President hitch a ride on a police vehicle past a burning barricade in the Cibitoke neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 19, 2015/AFP
BUJUMBURA, Burundi, May 20 – Burundian security forces fired shots and tear gas in battles with protesters Wednesday, the latest violence in weeks of anti-government demonstrations, as the presidency delayed elections by over a week.

In the capital Bujumbura, thousands defied heavy gunfire from police and government orders to call off their protests, marching through the streets to demand President Pierre Nkurunziza abandon his bid for a third term in power.

One week after a failed coup led by a top general – which saw soldiers battling each other on the streets – police were seen returning to try to quash protests. Several fired warning shots, others were seen to sometimes fire at body height.

In recent days, soldiers had been mainly deployed, viewed by many protesters as being more neutral than the much more feared police.

Amid the street chaos Wednesday, one soldier was shot dead by police, raising already acute tensions between the two forces. One protester was shot in the leg.

More than 20 people died in weeks of clashes with security forces that halted during the coup attempt, but the protests resumed Monday.

Journalists were threatened, with one senior police officer warning reporters to “leave the area or we will shoot you with the protesters.”

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