By Agence France-Presse
Several people died Tuesday during clashes between Burundi security forces and a rebel group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to police and rebels.
The Burundi rebel group, RED-Tabara — which is based in the east of DR Congo and which the government and diplomats believe is headed by one of Burundi’s most outspoken opponents, Alexis Sinduhije — said the clashes occurred during an incursion into Burundi territory.
The police said they killed 14 “criminals” while the rebels claimed they had shot around a dozen officers.
“Dismantlement… of a group of armed criminals from the DR Congo,” the country’s security ministry wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.
“14 criminals were killed and 11 guns they were carrying seized,” it added.
The ministry did not say whether any police officers had been killed, while witnesses and local administration sources said that several had died.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a high-ranking member of RED-Tabara dismissed the police’s toll as “complete fantasy.”
“As we had the advantage of surprise, a dozen police officers were killed, and on our side, we lost one fighter and another was captured,” he said.
According to local witnesses, the rebels arrived in Burundi at 4:00 am (0600 GMT).
The fighting lasted several hours and caused thousands of locals to flee the area, according to witnesses.
The last reported such attacks by DR Congo-based Burundi rebels happened in 2017.
Burundi has been locked in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1,200 dead and over 400,000 displaced.
The next presidential election is scheduled to be held in 2020.