Gunmen shot dead five people in attacks in Burundi, police and local media said the latest in a series of murders that are raising fears of a new rebellion.
Burundi has enjoyed relative peace since the former rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) laid down weapons and joined the government in 2009 after two decades of insurgency.
The government blamed bandits last year for a series of macabre civilian murders, although some analysts said the attacks bore the hallmarks of the former FNL, Reuters reports.
The United Nations said in December that former FNL fighters were in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and in recent weeks armed men have intensified attacks on police checkpoints and ruling party members’ homes in former FNL rural strongholds.
“Two people were shot dead early this morning by armed men who ambushed a bus,” said Joseph Kinyata, police chief in Cibitoke province, a notorious hotspot during the civil war.
“The attackers burned the vehicle and fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.
Raymond Nzimana, a resident of Musaga district south of the capital, said a police officer and an attacker were killed on Tuesday during an exchange of fire with gunmen.
Local radio said a village chief was shot dead in his home in the southeast of the country.
Burundi’s army spokesman also confirmed this week there had been a series of defections from the army, and that there were fears the deserters may form insurgent groups.
Former rebel leader and FNL boss, Agathon Rwasa, is in hiding, saying he fled the country not to be arrested by the government which has accused him of planning a new insurgency.
Burundi authorities believe Rwasa is in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwasa was a presidential candidate in Burundi’s 2010 elections but later withdrew from the race, accusing the ruling CNDD-FDD party of rigging the votes.