BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Eleven policemen were wounded in Burundi when unknown gunmen hurled grenades and attacked police stations across the capital Bujumbura late at night, police officials said on Saturday, adding to tensions ahead of a presidential poll on July 15.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard from 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Friday and echoed across parts of the capital for several hours, witnesses said.
“Yesterday police posts were attacked, and the police registered 11 policemen who were wounded in the attack,” Pierre Nkurikiye, a police spokesman, told Reuters.
No-one has been arrested but a police investigation has been launched into the attacks on police stations in the Jabe, Cibitoke, Bwiza and Kanyosha districts, Nkurikiye said, but did not specify how many posts were attacked.
About 70 people have died in the east African country since April 26 when clashes erupted between security forces and activists protesting against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, a rights group said on Friday. The government puts the death toll much lower.
Though protests subsided in early June, there have been occasional exchanges of gunfire at night.
Diplomats say tensions run high and could flare during voting or if Nkurunziza wins again, which many say is a real possibility.
Opposition say the president’s bid for a third term violates the constitution and endangers the peace deal that ended an ethnically-charged civil war in 2005. Nkurunziza’s supporters say he can run again because his first term, when he was picked by lawmakers and not elected, does not count.
A parliamentary election is scheduled for June 29, two weeks before the presidential poll. Both have been delayed several weeks in the wake of the unrest.
Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, deputy president of Frodebu Party opposing Nkurunziza’s bid, said the attacks could be used as an excuse for another crackdown on the opposition.
“The police staged the attack itself. They want to have a pretext of arresting youth protesters,” he told Reuters.
Talks between the fractured opposition and the government - mediated by the UN - to end the violence have made little progress, with the government adamant it would not postpone the election again.
Reporting by Clement Manirabarusha; writing by Drazen Jorgic and Clelia Oziel