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Heavy clashes in Burundi after coup attempt, as hiding president calls for calm

Burundi's president, the target of an attempted coup, has appealed for calm from a secret location in Tanzania. There has been heavy fighting between rival troops in Burundi's capital.

Explosions and gunshots were heard on Thursday in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, a day after a top general

launched a coup

to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Former intelligence chief Godefroid Niyombare announced that Nkurunziza had been relieved of his duties. One report said four radio stations, used by Niyombare's supporters to announce the coup, were later burnt down by government-aligned police forces.

Niyombare launched the coup when Nkurunziza was in neighboring Tanzania for a summit on Burundi's ongoing political unrest. He was sacked after criticizing the president's bid to seek a third term in elections in June.

Nkurunziza is said to be in the Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, hiding at a secret location. From there, he used Twitter to call for calm, saying the situation was "under control."

The head of the country's armed forces, Prime Niyongabo, told state radio that the coup had failed, and he was "against Maj. Gen. Niyombare." But Niyombare's camp has denied this, saying they had control of government facilities and the capital's international airport.

Nkurunziza was unable to return home after forces loyal to Niyombare closed the airport.

His announcement of a bid for a third term had sparked deadly protests, killing up to 20 people. Earlier this month, the country's constitutional court

cleared the way

for him to run for another term, the legality of which had been under a cloud.

The court accepted Nkurunziza's argument that his first term did not count, as he was elected by the parliament in 2005 - and not the people, as the constitution specifies. The constitution was signed into law in the same year that Nkurunziza took office.

But allegations of intimidation and death threats surrounded the ruling, with the court's vice president fleeing the country shortly before it was given.

World leaders have expressed their concern over the coup and Nkurunziza's decision to stand again, pressuring him to withdraw from the election.

jr/msh (dpa, AP)

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