It is the second attack in two weeks by the RED-Tabara rebels, who have been largely inactive inside Burundi since 2021.
The attack targeted nine homes in a western town along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo [Jerome Delay/AP]
Gunmen have killed at least 20 people and wounded nine others near Burundi’s western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), an official has told reporters.
Those killed in the Friday evening raid on the town of Vugizo included 12 children, two pregnant women and a police officer, government spokesperson Jérôme Niyonzima said on Saturday.
The attack was claimed by the RED-Tabara rebel group, considered a “terrorist” group by the Burundian authorities.
The attack targeted nine homes in the town, close to the Lake Tanganyika border with the DRC. At least nine others wounded in the attack have been hospitalised.
The RED-Tabara rebel group, which has been battling Burundi’s government from bases in the eastern DRC since 2015, claimed on the social media platform X to have killed nine soldiers and one police officer.
The group denied having targeted civilians.
Local residents said they heard sounds of gunfire and explosions during the attack.
Witnesses who spoke to the Associated Press said the rebels appeared to be wearing Burundian Army uniforms and civilians were “left to their own devices” after the military and police fled.
“We realised they were attackers when they attacked the police position guarding the border,” said Priscille Kanyange, a farmer.
“Many people here were injured by bullets [as they were] trying to flee.”
Another farmer, Innocent Hajayandi, who witnessed the attack, said security forces fled, “leaving the residents to their own devices”.
André Kabura, a grocery shop owner who was wounded in both legs in the gunfire, said the military and police were slow to regroup and fend off the attackers.
Two military and security sources told the AFP news agency 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 the AFP on condition of anonymity, confirming the toll of 20.
The attack was the second in as many weeks inside Burundi by the rebels, who have not been active inside the country 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 the DRC’s South Kivu province. But on December 11, they exchanged fire with the military in northwestern Burundi.
On Friday, Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye told army, police and intelligence officers to remain vigilant, warning that “the enemy never sleeps even if we have security”.
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