Police killed two gunmen in Burundi’s capital after a heavy exchange of fire, police said the latest in a series of incidents that have raised fears of a new rebellion in the coffee producing nation.
Burundi has enjoyed relative peace since the former Hutu hardline rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) laid down their weapons and joined the government in 2009 after two decades of civil war that claimed the lives of 300,000 people.
One of the men killed in Monday’s shootout was an ex-police officer and security guard for former FNL boss Agathon Rwasa, police spokesman Pierre Channel Ntarabaganyi said, Reuters reports.
Rwasa disappeared from Bujumbura in June last year after boycotting presidential elections that he said would be rigged. A U.N. report last year said Rwasa and a number of allies had moved to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We got information that there were people holding guns hidden in one house in Kinindo district. Police ordered them to surrender but they started shooting,” Ntarabaganyi told reporters.
“Police were obliged to return fire, killed two of them and arrested three others,” he said, adding that two guns and one hand grenade were seized in the operation.
Attacks against civilians, police and soldiers have increased in recent months. The authorities blame bandits for the attacks, but human rights organisations and some political parties said they bear the hallmarks of a new insurgency.
More people are also demanding that President Pierre Nkurunziza start talks with the opposition leaders who fled the country after the 2010 elections.
Last month, a coalition of opposition parties known as the Alliance for Democratic Change (ADC) called on South African President Jacob Zuma, who was a chief mediator in peace talks, to persuade Nkurunziza to start talks with the opposition.