US Urges Citizens to Leave Burundi

US Urges Citizens to Leave Burundi

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- The U.S. government asked its citizens to leave Burundi as soon as possible Sunday after 87 people were killed Friday, in an escalation of the violence surrounding the disputed third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Due to the continuing violence non-emergency U.S. government personnel and dependents of U.S. government employees from Burundi have been ordered to leave Burundi, the State Department said. The U.S. Embassy can only offer limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi, the State Department said in a travel warning.

Political violence persists throughout Burundi following the country's contested elections, an attempted coup and the controversy over Nkurunziza standing for and winning a third term, the warning said.

Gunfire and grenade attacks occur with frequency from armed groups operating in Burundi, but are usually not directed at foreigners, it said.

"Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning," it said.

Last month, Belgium, Burundi's former colonial power, advised its citizens to leave the Central African country, amid rounds of weekly killings of opposition and government supporters.

After the violence Friday and the shocking sights Saturday of bodies strewn in the streets, a precarious calm has settled in Bujumbura Sunday. Businesses opened and movement resumed after many people stayed in their neighborhoods Saturday.

On Friday there were attacks on three army installations. More than 150 armed men raided the army facilities and 79 of them were killed, army spokesman Col. Gaspard Baratuza said Saturday. Eight security agents, four from the army and four from police, also died in the fighting and 21 security officers were wounded, he said. Baratuza said forces arrested 45 members of the unidentified group that carried out the attacks.

More than 300 people have been killed and about 215,000 others have fled Burundi since April, when it was announced that Nkurunziza would stand for a third term, which he won in elections in July.

(KA)