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Burundi Security Forces Kill Two Suspected Rebels


FILE - A policeman holds his rifle during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 20, 2015.

FILE - A policeman holds his rifle during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 20, 2015.

A former military officer and policeman who were suspected of leading a group of rebels were killed Wednesday in a shootout with security forces east of Burundi's capital, the police spokesman said.

The deaths are the latest in a wave of violence gripping the poor African nation and a further sign of the armed rebellion against the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who sparked the crisis with his re-election for a third term.

Army Captain Idi Omar Bahenda Saidi and police Brigadier Jean Claude Niyongabo were killed in the Muramvya province of Burundi, about 50 km (30 miles) east of Bujumbura, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye told Reuters.

Police had sought to arrest the men but they had resisted, leading to a shootout, he said. Weapons were also seized, including an assault rifle and explosives, the spokesman said.

Opposition sources said they believed Saidi was a member of FOREBU, a rebel group which was launched in December and led by another former senior army officer, Edouard Nshimirimana.

FOREBU could not immediately be reached for comment.

Opponents of Nkurunziza accuse him of violating the constitution and a peace deal that ended the 12-year civil war in 2005 by seeking a third mandate. Loyalists cite a court ruling that said he could run.

Nkurunziza announced his bid for re-election in April and won a disputed vote in July after much of the opposition boycotted the polls.

Western powers and regional states fear that an escalation in violence could turn a crisis that has so far largely followed political allegiances into a renewed ethnic conflict.

The civil war pitted what was then an army led by the Tutsi minority against rebel groups of the Hutu majority, including one led by Nkurunziza.

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