Senior Burundi pro-government army officer shot dead: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2016 11:34 AM

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A senior Burundi army officer and ally of President Pierre Nkurunziza was shot dead in the capital on Tuesday, army sources said, the latest in a series of killings in an almost year-long crisis that risks plunging the African nation back into war.

Lieutenant Colonel Darius Ikurakure was shot in the Defence Ministry by a man who then fled, one soldier told Reuters. Two other sources gave similar accounts. There was no official statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the reported assassination.

"Such acts of violence risk exacerbating the current crisis in Burundi," Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters. "The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal for Burundians to resolve their differences peacefully and to engage immediately in an inclusive and transparent political dialogue."

Tit-for-tat killings of pro-government and opposition figures have sparked international concerns that Burundi, which emerged from an ethnically charged civil war a decade ago, could slide back into conflict.

The crisis has rattled a region with a history of ethnic fighting, including neighboring Rwanda which suffered a genocide in 1994.

"Many were at home for their lunch ...," one of the army sources, who asked not be identified, said. "That is why he was probably not seen and arrested."

Ikurakure was commander of a combat engineering battalion based in Muzinda, northeast of the capital, Bujumbura. He was seen as close to Nkurunziza, with whom he fought as a rebel during the civil war that ended in 2005.

Opponents accused him of being behind arbitrary arrests and killings in some areas of Bujumbura over the last year.

The government says it only arrests those behind violence, and dismisses accusations of extra-judicial killing.

Burundi's crisis erupted in April when Nkurunziza said he was bidding for a third presidential term. His opponents said the move was unconstitutional but he went on to win a disputed election three months later.

(Writing by Edmund Blair Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Ed Cropley and James Dalgleish)