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Protesters shot in new clashes in Burundi

Violence continues on the streets of Burundi's capital Bujumbura over president Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term. Several people have been shot during the latest clashes, reports say.

At least 15 protesters were hurt in a fresh bout of violence in Bujumbura on Thursday, Reuters has reported citing the Burundian Red Cross.

Some of the injured suffered gunshot wounds, the Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza told the AFP news agency. A military source also confirmed to AFP that the police had fired on demonstrators.

Burundi unrest has already claimed at least six lives since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced during the weekend that he will seek a third term, in a move critics claim violates the country's constitution.

On Thursday, the authorities unexpectedly forced thousands of students to leave the campus of Burundi's national university in Bujumbura, in an apparent push to stem the wave of protests. Students, many of whom come from rural areas, could be seen heading home under police watch.

The government had already blocked mobile access to several social networks, including Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

A group of protesters was engaged in a stand-off with the police on the outskirts of the capital, blocking a road with burning tires, sticks, and stones.

Pot that 'doesn't stop boiling'

A senior US diplomat told president Nkurunziza on Thursday that the country risked "boiling over", according to Reuters. Tom Malinowski, US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, arrived in Burundi a day earlier to help defuse the escalating crisis.

"I left the president with the thought that this country with its very complicated and difficult history is like a boiling pot, and that if you try to put a lid on that pot it doesn't stop boiling. It risks boiling over," Malinowski said.

According to presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho, president Nkurunziza told Malinowski that the current protests "were illegal and that most parts of the country are peaceful" but also added that the opposition would not be restricted.

"(Nkurunziza) said political space would be respected and there is no restriction whatsoever to anybody who is engaged in political competition. Everyone has a role to play," Abayeho said, according to Reuters.

'The army will be our savior'

Diplomats worry that the violence could open old wounds in a country populated by Hutu and Tutsi tribes, which only emerged from a bloody civil war a bit over a decade ago.

Thousands of people have already fled across the border to neighboring Rwanda.

Army, which is composed of both major ethnic groups, is also deployed on the streets in a push to restore order and is seen as a more neutral force by demonstrators. However, some observers fear that the escalating violence might split the troops along old tribal lines.

For now, protesters on the streets clap and chant to army trucks.

"The police are killing us, but the army is behaving well," said Egide Nimbona, 27, at a protest in a Bujumbura suburb.

"They are very disciplined. The army will be our savior," he said.

dj/jil (Reuters, AFP)

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