Security forces in Burundi killed at least 14 armed men who intended to launch an attack in Bubanza province, police and residents said.
The men, from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), entered the province at dawn and were killed in Musigati district, police deputy spokesman Moise Nkurunziza said on state broadcaster RTNB.
The group had the “intention of repeating the carnage of Ruhagarika”, he said, referring to an attack last year that killed at least 26 people days before a constitutional referendum cleared the way for President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034.
Last month, the United Nations warned Burundi was at risk of a new wave of atrocities as it approaches next year’s election with an unresolved political crisis and a president increasingly portrayed as a “divine” ruler, prompting government to respond its report did not reflect reality.
Three residents of Kayange told Reuters they heard gunfire outside the town and fled into the nearby forest.
The group killed by security forces was part of a larger group that entered the country from Congo, an army officer told Reuters on condition of anonymity. He gave no further details.
Four journalists from domestic news website Iwacu and their driver, who went to report on the violence, were arrested, the website editor wrote on his Twitter feed.
The motives behind Tuesday’s planned attack were not immediately clear.
After the 2018 attack in a neighbouring province, residents told Reuters it was probably intended to warn off anyone from backing constitutional changes in the referendum.
When the president stood for a third time in 2015, opponents said it violated a two-term constitutional limit.
His supporters beat, tortured and executed activists, suspected opponents and journalists, according to rights groups and the United Nations. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the tiny central African nation.