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Burundi activist's son killed hours after arrest

Aymeric Vincenot, AFP | Leading human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, 66, speaks to journalists at his house in Burundi, on April 28, 2015

The son of a prominent activist was found dead in Burundi on Friday, just hours after he was arrested, his family and witnesses said.

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing and said he was alarmed by the escalating violence in Burundi.

The body of Welly Nzitonda, the son of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, an activist publicly opposed to Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term as president, was found on the street of the capital Bujumbura, witnesses said.

Mbonimpa, who is in exile in Europe, confirmed his son's death.

Nkurunziza has announced a Saturday deadline for people to hand over illegal firearms or be treated as enemies of the state, in a bid, the government says, to stem months of violence and protests over his election to a third term in office this year.

The young man, like dozens of others, was leaving the capital's Mutakura district, where many feared violence.

Witnesses said they had seen him arrested, others said that they had seen his corpse on the roadside, lying alongside another dead body.

"When the police arrested him, there were many witnesses... we found him in the street alongside a second person," one witness said.

Mbonimpa was wounded when he was shot by a gunman on a motorbike in August and his son-in-law was murdered in early October in Bujumbura.

International condemnation

The United Nations condemned public statements in Burundi aimed at inciting hatred and violence, while voicing alarm at recent discoveries of corpses of civilians who appear to have been summarily executed.

“The recurring violence and killings must stop,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, adding that Ban Ki-moon said “inflammatory rhetoric is reprehensible and dangerous (and) will only serve to aggravate the situation in the country”.

On Friday, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said the UN Security Council would discuss the worsening situation in Burundi next Monday, and condemned “hateful speeches, including those of an unacceptable sectarian connotation”.

Burundi angrily rejected criticism of a planned security crackdown, saying on Friday that warnings of fresh violence reflected a bias against Nkurunziza.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said on Thursday she was extremely concerned that the arms ultimatum could “trigger widespread violence” if security forces started searching homes for weapons and opposition figures.

Regional and world powers have grown increasingly concerned about a wave of clashes and killings in the central African country, fearing a repeat of the ethnic violence that culminated in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

"The language is unambiguous to Burundians and chillingly similar to that used in Rwanda in the 1990s before the genocide," the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank warned in a report issued late Thursday.

Opposition politicians say they are facing a growing crackdown and droves of people have been seen leaving their homes in the capital Bujumbura in recent days.

“We call on the international community to send us troops ... Tomorrow may be too late,” said Charles Nditije, chairman of the opposition UPRONA party and one of the few opposition leaders who remains in Burundi.

Power issued a statement saying the president of Burundi’s senate, Reverien Ndikuriyo, had at one stage told officials: “You have to pulverize, you have to exterminate - these people are only good for dying.”

“Such dangerous speech and the president’s call for a widespread, indiscriminate security crackdown exacerbate an already volatile situation and risk inciting even greater violence,” Power said.

Ndikuriyo’s office was not immediately available to comment on his reported quote.

But government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba dismissed the warning of further violence, saying Power had “never been in favour of the government’s initiatives”.

“She has never been concerned about the barbaric acts committed by their friends, the insurgents,” he said.

Nkurunziza’s ultimately successful bid to stand again in July elections plunged Burundi into crisis, triggering an ultimately failed coup a decade after the country emerged from civil war.

Critics said his move broke the constitution, though he cited a legal ruling allowing it.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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