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“TERRORISTS” have killed 26 people in Burundi during an overnight attack close to the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before a controversial referendum takes place this week.
The atrocity took place in a remote village in rural Cibitoke province in the violence-torn country’s north-west. Government officials claimed that an armed group had crossed from the DRC.
Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni said 24 people had been killed in their homes. According to eyewitnesses, the gang went from house to house with guns and knives, burning homes.
It is not known who carried out the attacks, but Mr Bunyoni blamed “terrorists coming from and returning to Congo.”
One eyewitness said: “These criminals went house to house and committed real carnage.
“Some of the victims were stabbed, others were shot. There is even a whole family that was burned alive in their home.”
The attack is believed to be an attempt by exiled opposition groups to disrupt Thursday’s referendum, which could result in President Pierre Nkurunziza staying in power until 2034.
Mr Nkrunziza has led Burundi since the end of the country’s civil war in 2005. Around 300,000 people were killed during the 12-year conflict between Hutu and Tutsi groups before a peace process culminated in a new constitution being ratified in a referendum.
However, violence flared when Mr Nkrunziza stood for a widely criticised third term in 2015.
He described his election success as “a victory of all Burundians,” promising that violent opposition would be beaten with the aid of God and his enemies “scattered like flour thrown into the air.”
The former PE teacher banned jogging in 2014 and 21 opposition activists were jailed for life for using it as a way to organise “an illegal demonstration that turned violent.”
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