Rebel attack kills 20 in Burundi

Burundian military personnel load their equipment before using busses from the airport in Goma, in the eastern DR Congo on March 5, 2023 to be re-transported towards their base to fight militia in the region. PHOTO/FILE/AFP

Bujumbura, (AFP): An attack by rebels in western Burundi has killed 20 people, all but one of them civilians, the government said on Saturday.

The attack was claimed by the RED-Tabara rebel group, which in its statement said it had killed 10 members of the security forces.

The attack occurred on Friday evening in the town of Vugizo, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo where the rebels have a base.

The government said the “terrorist, vile, barbaric act” targeted civilians and killed “12 children, including five less than five years old; three women including two who are pregnant; and five men including a policeman who came to help the civilians”.

Nine other people were wounded and have been hospitalised.

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RED-Tabara, Burundi’s main rebel group, said in a message on X, formerly Twitter, that “fighters… based in Burundi attacked the Vugizo border post” and that “nine military and one policeman were killed”.

Two military and security sources told AFP that the attack targeted “a military position”.

“The civilians were caught in the crossfire and were killed, and then the assailants retreated to DRC,” a senior military official told AFP on condition of anonymity, confirming the toll of 20.

The attack marked the second one in two weeks inside Burundi by the rebels, who have not been active since September 2021, when they carried out a series of attacks, including on the Bujumbura airport.

Since then, their activities have been taking place in DR Congo’s South Kivu province.

But on December 11, they exchanged fire with the military in northwestern Burundi.

“The RED-Tabara movement promises to continue its operations in all of the country,” it said in its message on X.

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Formed in 2011, RED-Tabara is thought to have between 500 and 800 fighters and has been behind most of the deadly attacks in Burundi since 2015.

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