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Fresh violence erupts in Burundi over president seeking additional term

Protesters angry over Burundian President Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term have clashed with police in Bujumbura. Several people have been killed since the violence started Sunday, activists claim.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds in Burundi's capital Monday, and a prominent opposition activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested on a second day of violent unrest in the African country.

Just hours before his arrest, Mbonimpa told news agency Reuters that at least five people were killed on Sunday – three of them in protests and two more in an attack by the youth wing of the ruling party.

A spokesman for the Burundi Red Cross said at least six people were killed seven wounded in the clashes.

The turmoil was sparked by Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza announcing he will run for another term

, in move critics say violates the constitution.

"The fight continues," protesters chanted in the Musaga district of Bujumbura on Monday, with other groups allegedly burning tires and blocking streets with rocks in other areas of the Burundi capital.

Police appeared to keep crowds isolated in different neighborhoods and prevent them from gathering in the city center. Witnesses also said the army has been deployed on the streets and now outnumbers police.

A witness who asked not to be named told AFP Mbonimpa was arrested "brutally" when police raided headquarters of a media association. The activist reportedly appeared on a live radio program beforehand.

Authorities also shut down the main independent radio station on Monday.

Thousands fleeing to Rwanda

Earlier reports claimed that only two people died in Sunday, with relatives of the victims claiming they were shot at close range by the police.

However, Bujumbura's mayor Saidi Juma said on state television that the pair has been killed by other protesters.

The unrest could further inflame ethnic tensions in a country inhabited by Hutu and Tutsi tribes, which only emerged from the bloody civil war in 2005.

According to officials from the neighboring Rwanda, more than 20,000 people from Burundi

have fled across the border

. Some of the refugees alleged violence by Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

Human Rights Watch accused the party's youth wing of serious rights abuses.

Disputed third term

Burundi's constitution says the president "is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years renewable one time."

However, Nkurunziza's supporters argue that his first term doesn't count as he was not elected by voters, but by lawmakers.

Both western and African countries criticized the move, with the US State Department saying it was disappointed by the decision and promising to take "targeted measures" against anyone instigating or taking part in violence.

The Catholic Church, which wields considerable influence in the predominantly Christian nation, has also spoken out against the controversial decision, while UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has warned that the country is at a "crossroads" between a fair vote and a route back to its "horrendously violent past."

dj/bw (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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