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UN rights agency ‘extremely concerned’ about situation in Burundi

The UN human rights agency expressed concern on Friday over the “rapidly worsening” situation in Burundi, saying that at least 198 people had been killed there since late April, including 63 in the past three weeks.

UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville said they were “particularly shocked” about the events of October 13 when “at least nine civilians were reportedly summarily executed” by the API police unit in charge of protecting state institutions.

One of the victims was well-known cameraman Christophe Nkezabahizi.

His wife, two children and a member of the local team of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Evariste Mbonihankuye, were also among the victims.

According to Colville, Nkezahabizi’s family was rounded up outside of their home and “shot in cold blood”.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman added that four other people, including one minor, were also reportedly killed by police in a separate incident.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week called for a rigorous investigation after the nine civilians were shot dead.

Burundi has been gripped by unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April that he would run for a third term, which the opposition, civil society and even sections of his own party said violated the constitution as well as the Arusha peace deal that ended the central African country’s civil war in 2006.

Nkurunziza duly won his expected third term in July in an election tainted by violence and which the international community criticised as deeply flawed.

The African Union has launched an investigation into rights abuses in Burundi and called for targeted sanctions to be imposed.