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Burundi General Announces Coup


A Burundian general said he has ousted President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is out of the country for a regional summit focused on his country's political crisis

A Burundian general said he has ousted President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is out of the country for a regional summit focused on his country's political crisis.

General Godefroid Niyombare told several private Burundian radio stations Wednesday that the president has been dismissed and that he will form a temporary committee, of which he is the president, to restore national harmony and unity.

“Given the necessity to preserve the country's integrity … President Pierre Nkurunziza is dismissed from his functions,” Niyombare read in a statement on Bonesha FM radio.

Niyombare made his declaration to reporters at a military barracks in Bujumbura, and was surrounded by several other senior officers in the army and police, including a former defense minister, Reuters reported.

VOA's Gabe Joselow, who is in the capital, Bujumbura, says tens of thousands of Burundians, including soldiers, are in the streets celebrating the apparent coup.

He says, however, it is not clear whether the general has the full backing of the military. VOA's Central African service reports that soldiers loyal to the president have surrounded the state broadcast center.

The Burundian president's office said on Twitter, "There is no coup in Burundi" and that "the coup attempt failed."

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Burundi has been rocked by protests since April 26, when President Nkurunziza announced he will run for a third term. Clashes between police and protesters have killed at least 14 people and injured more than 200.

Joselow says there were more clashes between police and protesters Wednesday before the coup attempt.

The coup attempt follows weeks of tension since Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term.

Before the radio announcement, protesters were in Bujumbura's streets Wednesday. In some neighborhoods, they battled past police in an effort to reach the downtown area. One policeman was seen opening fire on protesters, according to The Associated Press.

At least 14 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in protests since the president's announcement weeks ago.

Critics say a third term would be unconstitutional, while the president and his supporters insist it is legal because he was chosen by lawmakers, not a general election, for his first five-year term in 2005.

Burundi's constitutional court has ruled in the president's favor.

The five-nation East African Community, which also includes leaders from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, is holding a summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to discuss the situation. There was no immediate response from Nkurunziza or other EAC members about the coup attempt.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, is participating in meetings on the sidelines of the EAC ministerial in order to express U.S. concern about the situation in Burundi as well as U.S. support for the Arusha Agreement and political dialogue among all parties to ensure peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.

The officer at the head of Wednesday's coup attempt, General Niyombare, is a respected figure who was fired from his position as Burundi's intelligence chief in February.

Some material for this report came from AP, Reuters and AFP.

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