BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — At least three people have been killed in Burundi on Monday in violent clashes with the security forces, said the Red Cross, as street demonstrations persist over the president's third term bid.
An estimated 45 more people have been wounded, said Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza, in the worst chaos since the ruling party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to be its candidate in elections on June 26.
The police defended their tactics, saying they had restrained themselves even when 15 police officers were wounded by an exploding grenade allegedly thrown by protesters, said Liboire Bakundukize, a spokesman for the public security ministry.
"They (the police) contained themselves. But you know when people are attacked with a grenade, the reaction can be violent," he said. "I commend them but want to call on the people that such a thing (the grenade incident) cannot happen again. It is unacceptable. Because when they are attacked by a grenade, they can also be authorized to throw grenades."
Last week at least six people were killed in violent confrontations with the police, who fired live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds.
The protests are happening mostly in the suburbs of the capital, Bujumbura.
The protests resumed Monday after a weekend pause after a week of clashes between police and protesters angry over the president's bid for run for another term.
The U.S. has criticized Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term.
Speaking in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters: "We are deeply concerned about President Nkurunziza's decision, which flies directly in the face of the constitution of his country. Violence that is expressing the concern of his own citizens about that choice should be listened to and avoided as we go forward in these days."
On Monday some protesters reached downtown Bujumbura, which they had previously failed to get to because of a heavy police and military presence. Gunfire rang out and men ducked for cover as some shopkeepers hurriedly closed their businesses.
The military is continuing to act as a buffer between angry protesters and the police.
In the Musaga neighborhood, where anti-government anger has been particularly intense, barricades were erected as police watched on Monday. One of the protesters there had to be rushed to the hospital after being shot in the back.
Protesters say their goal is to force Nkurunziza to withdraw his bid for a third term, which many see as a violation of the Arusha Agreements that ended a civil war here in which more than 250,000 people died.
Burundi's defense minister, Maj. Gen. Pontien Gaciyubwenge, said on Saturday that the army should remain neutral amid the unrest. He urged "all political actors" to avoid violence.
Nkurunziza, a Hutu, was selected president by Parliament in 2005. He was re-elected unopposed in 2010.
Muhumuza contributed to this report from Kampala, Uganda. Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper in Nairobi, Kenya, also contributed.