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Burundi's opposition calls off talks with government after politician's murder

Burundi's opposition has suspended talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza's government after the murder of one of their leaders. Many anti-government leaders and activists have gone into hiding after Zedi Feruzi's death.

"The climate is not conducive for talks," said Bernard Ndayisegna, a leader of the opposition National Forces of Liberation (FNL) party.

Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the Union for Peace and Development (UPD)-Zigamibanga opposition party,

was shot dead outside his house by unknown gunmen

in the capital, Bujumbura, on Saturday. One of his bodyguards was also killed in the attack.

Witnesses claim the assailants had worn the presidential guard uniforms. The presidency denies any involvement in the attack.

Condemning Feruzi's assassination, the central African country's opposition groups said they were "suspending participation in dialogue with the government." They also said that the opposition leader's murder could have been part of a "plan to physically eliminate" leaders of the anti-government campaign.

The killings came a day after an attack on a busy market in Bujumbura left three people dead. The incident risks igniting further tensions in Burundi, a country gripped by weeks of

anti-government demonstrations

triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial decision to seek a third term in office in June.

Nkurunziza's decision late last month set off

an attempted, though ultimately unsuccessful, coup

.

At least 20 people have died and 431 people have been wounded in protests against the president.

Opposition campaigners 'in danger'

Agathon Rwasa, an opposition politician, told the Associated Press news agency on Sunday that a number of anti-government activists, politicians and journalists had gone into hiding after Feruzi's murder.

"The life of anyone who opposes (President) Pierre Nkurunziza is in danger… People are being assassinated here and there," Rwasa said.

At least 100,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries since the start of the latest conflict.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has slammed violence in Burundi and criticized Nkurunziza's attempt to stay in power.

Feruzi's murder and grenade attacks on independent media stations "threaten to entrench mistrust and trigger further violence," Ban said in a statement.

"These acts of violence constitute a stark reminder of the need for all Burundian political leaders to address the current political crisis with the highest sense of responsibility and to place peace and national reconciliation above partisan interests," Ban said.

shs/bw (AFP, dpa, AP)

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