Sporadic gunfire in Burundi amid military coup attempt

It remains unclear who is running the country, with the military said to be divided in loyalty between the president and the country’s general

BUJUMBURA, Burundi – Sporadic gunfire rang out in Burundi’s capital on Thursday, the day after an army general announced he had ousted President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose decision to seek a third term in office provoked angry street protests.

Loud explosions could be heard in central Bujumbura, which has been the scene of daily protests against another term for Nkurunziza.

Thousands took to the streets on Wednesday to celebrate after Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare announced on a private radio station that Nkurunziza had been relieved of his duties.

Nkurunziza was in neighbouring Tanzania for a summit on his country’s troubles at the time.

It remains unclear who is running the country, with the military said to be divided between Nkurunziza loyalists and those who back Niyombare, who had been fired in February as the country’s intelligence chief.

A grenade attack Wednesday night seriously damaged the building of private broadcaster Renaissance TV, where Niyombare also made his coup statement, said the station’s director, Innocent Muhozi. One of his offices was also burned overnight, he said.

Police withdrew from the streets of Bujumbura after Niyombare’s coup statement, and people thronged Bujumbura’s streets and applauded soldiers who rode by in tanks and trucks. But some officials remained loyal to Nkurunziza. His office said a statement posted on the president’s Twitter and Facebook accounts Wednesday evening that the coup attempt was unsuccessful.

At least 15 people were killed during daily protests over Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. During almost three weeks of unrest, the military acted as a buffer between police and protesters who said Nkurunziza’s bid for a third was a violation of the constitution and Arusha peace accords that ended a civil war here.

Burundi’s constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first one, leaving him open to be popularly elected to two terms.

The U.S. government on Wednesday called on all sides in Burundi to end the violence and expressed full support for the ongoing work by regional leaders to restore peace and unity in the country.

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