September 7, 2011 / 4:59 PM / 8 years ago

Burundi rights body reports surge in killings

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - A Burundian rights body said on Wednesday it had documented 125 extra-judicial killings between May and August that mostly targeted former Hutu rebels in a country still reeling from two decades of civil war.

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, chairman of the Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Prisoners’ Rights (APRODH), said he had raised concerns with the chief prosecutor that the authorities might be trying to eliminate opposition militants.

“We have pictures of the victims, and most of them were executed for political reasons,” Mbonimpa told reporters in the capital Bujumbura.

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 escalated in recent months and there are growing fears of a new rebellion in the small coffee-growing central African nation.

Mbonimpa said he had also asked the prosecution service to investigate claims of a rumoured operation known locally as “Safisha”, or “Cleaning” in English, aimed at wiping out opposition militants.

“According to the scale of the killings, (it) may really exist,” Mbonimpa said.

Former FNL boss Agathon 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.

APRODH said it frequently received complaints from former fighters still loyal to Rwasa, who said they were persecuted by the government’s intelligence officers and youth mobs linked to the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

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