87 killed as gunmen attack military bases in Burundi capital

burundi army personnel
Burundi military personnel drive through the Musaga neighbourhood of Bujumbura on December 11, 2015 (AFP Photo)

Seventy-nine rebels and eight government soldiers died during and after Friday’s coordinated attacks on three military bases in Burundi, the army spokesman said Saturday.

“The final toll of the attacks yesterday is 79 enemies killed, 45 captured and 97 weapons seized, and on our side eight soldiers and policemen were killed and 21 wounded,” said Colonel Gaspard Baratuza.

Fighting began at around 4:00 am (0600 GMT) when “heavily armed men” attacked a base at Ngagara in the north of the city and a military training college in the south, according to a senior military officer, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

“After more than two hours of clashes, the army repulsed the southern attack, while virtually all the attackers were killed in Ngagara base,” the officer said.

“There are dozens of deaths among the attackers, and we also have losses,” he said, adding the situation would soon be brought “completely” under control.

The attacks on the army base in Ngagara and the ISCAM Higher Institute of Military Training in Musaga were confirmed by 10 witnesses contacted by telephone. All spoke of heavy firing, including the sounds of artillery, lasting several hours.

The fighting is the heaviest since a failed coup in May, sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term which he later won in disputed elections in July.

“I am holed up in the corridor of my house with my wife and children,” said Eric, a resident of Musaga. “Pray for us because we will die!”

A government spokesman confirmed the attacks on Twitter, referring to the gunmen as “Sindumuja”, meaning “I am not a slave”, a name sometimes used for the insurgents.

“Tonight the #Sindumuja tried to attack military camps but they failed,” Willy Nyamitwe, media advisor to the president, wrote early on Friday.

 

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