Burundi army chief Gen Niyongabo survives assassination bid

Burundian soldiers walk near a burning barricade erected by protesters - April 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The capital has experienced political unrest since April

Burundi's army chief of staff has survived an assassination attempt on a busy road in the capital, Bujumbura.

General Prime Niyongabo was heading to his office in the morning when armed men attacked his motorcade.

Burundi's deputy police chief Gen Godefroid Bizimana told the AFP news agency the army chief was unharmed.

Burundi has suffered serious unrest since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in elections he later won.

In May he survived a coup attempt.

A senior army general and close aide to the president, Adolphe Nshimirimana, was killed last month in similar circumstances.

Earlier this week the spokesman for a party opposed to President Nkurunziza's third term was shot dead in Bujumbura.

The opposition has blamed such targeted killings on government agents, or "pro-government paramilitary youths". The authorities deny any involvement.

The BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge in Bujumbura says the men who attacked the motorcade on one of the busiest roads in the south of the city were armed with guns and rockets.

A military source told the BBC that three bodyguards and one of the attackers were killed during the attack.

Four of the gunmen had been captured, two of whom were wounded, the source said.

A senior police source told AFP the attackers were wearing military uniforms and travelling in a military vehicle.

"He [the army chief] managed to survive only because the driver managed to overtake a bus transporting police officers to work, and the attackers could not keep up," the police source said.

Analysis: BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge, Bujumbura

Image copyright AP
Image caption Gen Adolphe Nshimirimana was killed on 2 August when his car was attacked by rockets

Targeted attacks on key army leaders seem to have become the modus operandi of a group yet to disclose its identity.

Unlike amateurish shooting heard at night during June in neighbourhoods opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza's third term, these attacks carry the mark of the well-trained.

The assassination in August of a senior general - Adolphe Nshimirimana - happened in broad daylight at a busy road junction in the city.

The attempt on the army chief Prime Niyongabo's life happened at rush hour in the heart of the capital.

In both cases, witnesses spoke of attackers in military fatigues and using vehicles in army colours.

Could there be some split within the army? Many may be tempted to think so given the failed coup backed by several generals who opposed the third term in May.

Gen Niyongabo and Gen Nshimirimana were key in quashing that putsch. Are some of the plotters who managed to flee behind these attacks? It is difficult to know unless they come out to say so - and the army is likely to remain reticent about possible divisions in its ranks.

At least 100 people have died in protests, mainly in Bujumbura, since Mr Nkurunziza announced his decision seek another term in office.

The government accuses the opposition, which says the third term is illegal, of causing the violence.

The political tensions there have forced tens of thousands people to flee the country this year.

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