Two Burundi police officers and a civilian were killed in two separate grenade attacks in the capital of Bujumbura late Friday, a police spokesman said, as protest organisers call for a pause in the demonstrations.

More than 10 people were wounded in the two attacks, deputy police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said in a phone message. The three were killed in the Kamenge district of Bujumbura but another area was also hit, he said. One of the dead policemen was a senior officer.

Bujumbura has been rocked by six consecutive days of demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza, who on Friday warned of “severe sanctions” against those protesting over his decision to seek a third term in office.

At least seven people have died and 66 others have been wounded in clashes between protesters and police, according to officials.

The United Nations, which has voiced concerns that intelligence and security services are using live ammunition at protests, said there are also “credible” reports of detained protesters being beaten and held in overcrowded conditions.

Protests halted for now

On Saturday, a civil society leader said protest organisers have now called for a two-day pause in the demonstrations.

“We decided to stop demonstrations for two days, first to allow those who lost their family members in the protests to observe mourning and, second, we want the protesters to regain energy before resuming the fight Monday,” said Pacifique Nininahazwe, head of Focode, one of the 300 civil society groups that have called for the demonstrations.

The protests have sparked the biggest political crisis since an ethnically fuelled civil war ended in 2005. The presidency has called the demonstrations an “insurrection”.

Reporting from Bujumbura, FRANCE 24 correspondent Duncan Woodside described the situation on the streets of the capital as “very, very tense”.

“Although the protesters have called off their protest for 48 hours … it’s very likely further protests will take place beyond the next couple of days and the situation could deteriorate very quickly,” he said.

Opponents say Nkurunziza is violating the constitution and the Arusha peace deal by seeking a third five-year mandate at elections on June 26.

Pre-vote fears have driven more than 26,000 Burundians to neighbouring Congo and Rwanda, officials say.

Nkurunziza’s supporters say he can run again because his first term, when he was picked by lawmakers and not elected, does not count. The United States, however, disagrees and has said his candidacy is a violation of the Arusha accords.

The crisis is being closely watched in a region still scarred by the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in neighbouring Rwanda which, like Burundi, is divided between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus.

Diplomats say the unrest is a political disagreement but fear violence could lead to bloodshed along ethnic lines.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

 

 

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