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Burundi: 20 dead in rebel attack - Government statement

Burundi: 20 dead in rebel attack - Government statement
In this Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, police arrest a man following grenade attacks in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi   -  
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Twenty people, including 19 civilians, were killed in western Burundi, the government announced on Saturday, in an attack claimed by the RED-Tabara rebel group, which in turn claimed to have killed ten members of the security forces.

The attack was carried out on Friday evening in the locality of Vugizo, some twenty kilometers from the economic capital Bujumbura and bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country where the rear base of the RED-Tabara movement (Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi), the main armed group fighting the regime led by Evariste Ndayishimiye, is located.

In a statement, the government claims that this "cowardly attack" deliberately targeted civilians, killing a total of 20 people, including "12 children, including five under the age of five; three women, two of whom were pregnant; and five men, including one of the police officers who intervened to rescue the civilians".

Nine others were injured and hospitalized, the government added, condemning a "despicable and barbaric terrorist act".

The RED-Tabara group claimed that its "fighters (...) based in Burundi attacked the Vugizo border post" and asserted that "9 soldiers and 1 policeman were killed", in a message on "X" (ex-Twitter).

Two military and security sources told AFP that the attack had targeted a "military position".

"Civilians were caught in the crossfire and killed, then the attackers retreated into the DRC," a senior army officer, who requested anonymity, told AFP, confirming a death toll of 20.

This was the second action in less than two weeks by these rebels on Burundian soil, where they had not been active since attacks in September 2021, one of which targeted Bujumbura airport.

On December 11, they reported clashes with soldiers in north-western Burundi.

"The RED-Tabara movement promises to continue its operations throughout the country", they wrote on "X".

Since late 2021, their fighting had been concentrated in the DRC's South Kivu province, where Burundian forces had been sent to hunt them down, according to Congolese and Burundian sources.

The authorities in Kinshasa and Gitega have always denied this presence.

In a report published in July, the NGO Initiative pour les droits humains au Burundi (IDHB) claimed that hundreds of Burundian soldiers and militiamen had been secretly sent to the eastern DRC as early as December 2021.

A thousand soldiers have also been officially deployed to North Kivu as part of an East African Community (EAC) force to be deployed from November 2022. They withdrew on December 11, after the mission of this regional force was not renewed.

Created in 2011 and with an estimated strength of between 500 and 800 men, RED-Tabara is accused of being responsible for most of the deadly attacks and ambushes in Burundi since 2015.

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