August 11, 2011 / 9:38 AM / 8 years ago

Burundi gunmen kill one, insurgency fears rise

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Gunmen killed one soldier and seriously wounded five people in western Burundi, the latest attack in a spate of violent incidents that have raised fears of a new insurgency in the central African country.

Burundian servicemen patrol in the downtown Rushubi, 24 km (15 miles) from Bujumbura, April 28, 2008. REUTERS/Jean Pierre Harerimana

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 insurgency.

But attacks against civilians and soldiers have increased in recent months and Uprona, the main Tutsi party and part of the coalition government led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, has said they bear the hallmarks of a new rebellion.

In the latest incident on Wednesday, a group of armed men in the western district of Gihanga ambushed and killed a soldier and wounded five people, including two nuns and a priest, district official Bonaventure Ntirandekura said.

“At least 12 armed men attacked, at 6:30 pm local time, a convoy of two vehicles. After that the attackers burnt the two vehicles,” he told Reuters. Police confirmed the incident but did not give further details.

Wednesday’s attack came after Burundi police killed three gunmen suspected to be former FNL fighters in a shootout on Sunday.

Burundi’s authorities blame bandits for the attacks but some analysts have said the attacks appear to be the work of former FNL members.

More people are also voicing dissent and demanding that Nkurunziza start talks with exiled opposition leaders who fled the country after the 2010 elections.

Among those in exile is former rebel leader and FNL boss Agathon Rwasa, who says he fled to avoid arrest by Burundi’s government, which has accused him of planning a new insurgency.

A coalition of Burundi opposition parties known as the Alliance for Democratic Change(ADC) called on South African President Jacob Zuma, who is visiting Burundi, to persuade Nkurunziza to start talks with the opposition.

Zuma has in the past served as a chief mediator in Burundi’s peace talks.

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