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Ex-army chief killed as Burundi crisis ‘spirals out of control’

© Landry Nshimiye, AFP | A lone police officer runs in the direction of the old market in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura August 2, 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-08-15

The former head of Burundi's army, Colonel Jean Bikomagu, was assassinated Saturday, his family told AFP. His death comes as the UN warned that the country was about to "spiral out of control" following last month’s controversial presidential vote.

Bikomagu, who led the former Tutsi-dominated army during the country’s 13-year civil war, was gunned down in his car by unidentified assailants as he was about to enter his home in Kinindo, a southern district of the capital Bujumbura, a family member said.

His assassination comes amid a mounting political crisis, which prompted the UN to warn Friday that the country was "slipping closer to the edge".

Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a news briefing in Geneva that at least 96 people had been killed since the start of election-related violence in April. He urged all sides in the East African nation "to resume dialogue before the situation spirals completely out of control."

'Climate of reprisals'

Tensions have been high in the central African state since late April when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office, a move his opponents and Western powers said violated the constitution and which triggered a failed coup in May.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at UN headquarters in New York that on Thursday a member of the ruling party and his wife were killed on their way home in Bujumbura province.

While most of those killed have been opposition members, Dujarric said the human rights office reported that over the past two weeks at least seven ruling party members have been killed.

The office said these attacks indicate "a climate of reprisals, but also worrying signs that some parts of the opposition are increasingly resorting to violence," Dujarric said.

Shamdasani said so far no trials have taken place in relation to the killings, detentions, torture and ill-treatment and although the authorities have repeatedly indicated that investigations are under way "we understand that in very few cases have investigations actually been initiated."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, and Reuters)

Date created : 2015-08-15

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