Burundi Army Chief survives assassination

Gen. Prime Niyongabo. Burundi army chief of staff narrowly survived an assassination Friday morning

Gen. Prime Niyongabo. Burundi army chief of staff narrowly survived an assassination Friday morning

Burundi army chief of staff, General Prime Niyongabo, has survived an assassination in an ambush attack that claimed three of his bodyguards and injured six others.

The army chief was driving to his office in Bujumbura early Friday morning when unknown armed men ambushed his convoy and fired a rocket that missed his car but hit and destroyed a jeep carrying his bodyguards, eye-witnesses say.

Following the attack, an intense gun fight ensued between the attackers and security officers in the vicinity of the scene.

Two of the assailants were shot dead, and one of them sustained injury according to Col. Gaspard Baratuza, the army spokesman.

In a press conference held Friday afternoon, Col. Baratuza said the police operation conducted in Kinindo area, Mukaza district resulted in the seizure of one machine gun, a rocket launcher RPG 7, and three shot machine guns among the weapons used by the suspected attackers.

“The plotters of the attack had no any other objective than disrupting the cohesion of the National Defense Forces, which is the outcome of a successful integration that has characterised the army since 2005,” Baratuza said.

One of the dead attackers

One of the dead attackers

The army spokesman condemned targeted killings that have claimed prominent current and former military officials and politicians calling all members of the military to remain calm, serene and united.

“The ministry of National Defense urges all military to resist any form of manipulation whose aim is to destroy the National Defense Forces and as a consequence, the entire nation,” Col. Baratuza stressed without divulging further details or taking questions from the press.

General Prime Niyongabo played a key role in foiling the May 13 attempted coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The attempt on the army chief’s life comes at a time when Burundi is still reeling from the assassinations of the former army chief of staff Jean Bikomagu and former head of internal security Lt-General Adolphe Nshimirimana who was killed in a similar attack in August, and other high profile politically motivated killings in over the last few weeks.

Recently an armed group attacked a military post located at a few kilometers away from the capital Bujumbura in the Kanyosha district of Bujumbura province, increasing panic among the public.

Although the Burundi government has managed to quell the protests against President Nkurunziza’s third term, the unrelenting talk of a possible massive rebel attack, and targeted killings and attacks have put the country especially the capital Bujumbura on edge.