Six killed in battles as Burundi awaits vote results
BUJUMBURA, Burundi - Agence France-Presse
People stand in a long queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Ngozi during a parliamentary election in Burundi June 29, 2015. Reuters PhotoAt least six people including a policeman were killed on July 1 in the latest violence in Burundi, as it awaits results from elections boycotted by the opposition and condemned internationally.
Clashes broke out in the capital Bujumbura's Cibitoke district, an opposition area that has been one of the heartlands of protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza's defiant bid for a third term.
While police said the deaths followed gunbattles with an "armed group", witnesses said the police staged summary executions after being attacked.
More than 70 people have been killed in two months of protests and a failed coup attempt sparked by the president's bid, with almost 144,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring nations.
Five of those killed Wednesday were members of an armed group who were "neutralised", police said, adding that they had seized weapons, including a rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade. They said one policeman also died in the firefight.
Cibitoke was sealed off on July 1 by security forces, an AFP photographer said, and it was not possible to independently confirm police reports.
The clashes took place after a grenade was thrown at a police patrol, injuring two officers, a police official said speaking on condition of anonymity.
An AFP reporter who later entered the area after the shooting had ended saw the bodies of six people killed, including a moneychanger in his sixties and his two sons, shot in the head. All the dead were civilians.
Residents accused the police of shooting them with "their hands in the air" after ordering them out of a house where they went to look for one of the protest leaders.
Those fleeing the district said police were carrying out house-to-house searches for guns.
On polling day June 29, some voting stations were also attacked by grenades, according to the police.
The election commission claimed an "enormous" turnout in the local and general elections, despite many polling stations appearing quiet.
Vote counting has been completed at a local level, the election commission has said, but it remains unclear when final results would be announced. The ruling party is expected to win a sweeping victory.
A combative Nkurunziza late June 30 asked the international community "to respect our independence", adding that the elections "had passed off very well".
Elsewhere in the capital July 1, military parades were held to mark the country's independence day, with tight security around the president and bullet-proof glass around the podium.
Almost four million people were registered to vote on June 29, but the opposition boycotted the polls, as they did in the last elections in 2010, claiming it was not possible to hold a fair vote given the climate of tensions.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier called for the voting to be delayed, as Burundi struggles through its worst crisis since the end of its civil war nine years ago.
The European Union warned the polls would "only exacerbate the profound crisis", while former colonial power Belgium said the polls were not credible and could "further divide the country".
June 29 polls kickstarted a series of elections, with presidential polls due on July 15 followed by senatorial elections on July 24.
Opponents say Nkurunziza's bid for another term is unconstitutional and violates a peace accord that paved the way for the end of 13 years of civil war in 2006.
Civil society groups backed the boycott in a joint statement calling on voters to skip the "sham elections".