Africa

Burundi rights activist Mbonimpa injured in gun attack

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa (19 March 2015) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Mbonimpa's work over the years for prisoners and others has won international acclaim

A prominent human rights activist in Burundi has been shot and seriously wounded by gunmen on motorbikes, his family and witnesses say.

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was attacked in the capital, Bujumbura.

He was a stern critic of President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term in office.

On Sunday presidential aide Gen Adolphe Nshimirimana was killed in an attack on his car in Bujumbura. He was in charge of the president's personal security.

Burundi has suffered serious unrest since President Nkurunziza's decision in April to seek a third term in office.

Opponents argued this violated the constitution and there was a failed coup attempt in May.

A presidential election was held last month which Mr Nkurunziza won, but which was boycotted by the opposition.

Bikers with guns

The US special envoy for the region, Tom Perriello, condemned the attack on Mr Mbonimpa.

"We are just horrified," he told BBC Newsday.

"This is a truly courageous man who has repeatedly stood up for the rights of the people of Burundi and has repeatedly been sent to prison for standing up for basic civil rights," he added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Burundi has suffered months of unrest since President Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term

The activist is in intensive care in a Bujumbura hospital, a relative told Reuters news agency.

The shooting took place near Mr Mbonimpa's home north of the capital on Monday evening.

"He was going home when suddenly a group of motorcyclists encircled him and started shooting at him. Many of the bikers had guns," the relative said.

Several foreign diplomats have visited Mr Mbonimpa in hospital, says the BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge in Bujumbura.

Mr Mbonimpa is believed to be one of the few members of Burundi's civil society opposed to the president who have not fled the country.

In April, he was held without charge for more than 24 hours by the intelligence services after he called for protests against the president's efforts to secure a third term.

Correspondents say that Mr Mbonimpa's work over the years for the rights of prisoners and others has won international acclaim and that rumours of his death had circulated in Burundi before the shooting took place.

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