At least one dead as Burundi police fire on funeral bus


Nairobi (AFP) - At least one person died Saturday when Burundian police fired on a bus leading a funeral cortege outside the capital Bujumbura as bystanders claimed that as many 16 were killed in the shooting.

Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye told AFP one person died when police exchanged fire with "armed criminals" on a bus heading a funeral cortege and three vehicles behind it.

But witnesses told AFP that 10, possibly as many as 16, people had died in the shootout, insisting no shots were fired from the bus itself.

A military source speaking anonymously meanwhile spoke of "three deaths and several injured".

Nkurikiye said police had been tipped off that the man buried at the earlier funeral led a group which earlier in the week attacked a police post near a youth centre at Kamenge in the northeast of the capital.

Police allowed the funeral of the man to go ahead at Mpanda, near the city's airport but then met the cortege as it reached nearby Buringa.

"When police tried to stop the bus the miscreants inside started shooting and police responded," said Nkurikiye.

He added that armed men in two of the vehicles fired into the air as they fled the scene.

Nkurikiye also told AFP that, as well as making a dozen arrests, police had recovered two rifles and a grenade at the scene.

- Official account disputed -

Witnesses disputed the official account.

One youth who was in the cortege and traveling in a vehicle behind the bus said there were around 50 people, including women and children aboard the latter, none of them armed.

He added the man buried at the funeral had been killed two days earlier by a stray bullet.

Recent weeks have seen a slew of attacks on police by what the authorities refer to as "criminal gangs", meaning those opposing a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005 and re-elected last June.

Since then, the country has been convulsed by violence, which broke out weeks before the poll and which has cost an estimated 200 lives.

Nkurunziza opponents say his re-election breached the terms of a peace deal that paved the way to ending a 13-year civil war in 2006.

Regional attempts to broker peace talks between rival factions have made little headway.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama announced Burundi will be ejected from a pact offering African nations much-desired US market access as he noted a "continuing crackdown on opposition members, which has included assassinations, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture."

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