Nairobi: Burundi’s army said that 79 “enemies” and eight soldiers were killed during the bloodiest day in months of unrest yesterday, which left the streets of the capital strewn with bodies, many bearing gunshot wounds.
The violence began with coordinated attacks by unidentified gunmen on three military installations, which triggered a fierce riposte from the security forces.
Several witnesses described the police and army going door-to-door in opposition strongholds in the capital Bujumbura, dragging out young men and executing them.
Army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza said all those killed were either “enemies” of the state, soldiers or policemen.
“The final toll of the attacks yesterday is 79 enemies killed, 45 captured and 97 weapons seized, and on our side eight soldiers and policemen were killed and 21 wounded,” Baratuza said.
The army had given a much lower toll after the assault yesterday on two military bases and a military training college, saying that 12 rebel gunmen had been killed and 21 captured in the attacks.
But today morning horrified residents of different neighbourhoods awoke to find at least 39 corpses scattered in the streets.
“Fighting continued into the night and the corpses found in these neighbourhoods this morning are enemies,” Baratuza declared.
Several witnesses accused the security forces of extrajudicial killings, describing officers breaking down doors in search of young men and shooting them at close range.
Some of the victims had their arms tied behind their backs, they said.
The army spokesman declined to comment on the details of the fighting and deaths.
One witness in Nyakabiga, a hotspot of anti-government protest in recent months, described the victims as “kids” and said they had been shot execution-style “through the top of the skull”.
A resident of Musaga, close to the military college that was among the sites attacked yesterday, said there were more than a dozen corpses in the streets. “I have counted 14 dead bodies with my own eyes,” he said, blaming “soldiers and police” for the killings.
But government supporters were in triumphant mood, holding marches today in Bujumbura and other towns under police protection to celebrate what they described as “the victory of our valiant army over the enemy.