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Burundi government promises crackdown after grenade attacks leave two police dead

Burundi's government has vowed to crack down on protests that rocked the country after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid for a third term in office. But the military says it won't break the constitution.

Burundi's government promised to crackdown on political protests that rocked the country after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid for a third term in office.

Burundi's security minister, General Gabriel Nizigama, on Saturday said that an overnight grenade attack that left three dead, including two police officers, was "linked to those who say they are demonstrating" against Nkurunziza's plans to seek a third term.

Pierre Nkurunziza

Earlier this week, President Pierre Nkurunziza said "no one will stop" the ruling party

Nizigama vowed a major crackdown against the political protests, accusing opposition and civil society groups of propping up a "terrorist enterprise."

"We heard these criminals used grenades and guns, and for us they are linked to those who say they are demonstrating because they consider the police, who are bringing peace and security, to be their enemy," the minister said.

"The security forces will from now on take every necessary measure to stop and arrest these criminals. The police, with the army, will do everything to stop this uprising."

No one 'will direct the military'

However, Major General Pontien Gaciyubwenge, Burundi's defense minister, said that the army would not violate the constitution or the Arusha peace deal, hours after Nizigama made the announcement. He also noted that no one could force the military's hand.

"There is no individual who will direct the army to go against the Arusha deal and the country's constitution," Gaciyubwenge said on Saturday.

Burundi 1. Mai Protest

Anti-government protesters took the streets on Friday to challenge Nkurunziza's attempt at a third term

Re-election support

Meanwhile, the president's supporters say that Nkurunziza is eligible for re-election since he was not elected directly by the people the first time.

Nkurunziza became president in 2005 when the country's parliament elected him. He was re-elected unopposed in 2010. Presidents are limited to two terms in office, according to the constitution.

Human rights abuses

The UN criticized Burundi's brutal crackdown on protesters, which led to social media being blocked and radio stations shut down across the country.

"According to one credible report, over 400 individuals are being held in extremely overcrowded conditions, with detainees having to sleep standing up," Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said on Friday.

"Detainees have also been beaten, particularly on their feet and buttocks, with some of those released having trouble walking due to the beating," Colville told reporters.

The Burundi Red Cross reported six dead and more than 60 injured in clashes with the police since the onset of the violent protests.

ls/jil (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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