Five possible mass graves found in Burundi: Amnesty

KAMPALA, Uganda - New satellite images, video footage and witness accounts show that dozens of people killed by Burundian security forces in December were later buried in mass graves, Amnesty International said Friday.

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The rights group reported there are five possible mass graves in the Buringa area, on the outskirts of the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.

"The imagery, dating from late December and early January, shows disturbed earth consistent with witness accounts. Witnesses told Amnesty International that the graves were dug on the afternoon of Dec. 11, in the immediate aftermath of the bloodiest day of Burundi's escalating crisis," the group said in a statement.

Witnesses described how police and local officials scoured Nyakabiga and other neighbourhoods in Bujumbura to retrieve the bodies of those who were killed and took them to undisclosed locations, according to Amnesty.

Earlier this month, UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein also called for an urgent investigation into the alleged existence of mass graves following the violence in December.

Zeid cited "large-scale human rights violations," saying the "increasing number of enforced disappearances, coupled with allegations of secret detention facilities and mass graves is extremely alarming."

Burundi's government dismissed those allegations, saying they were based on false information supplied by the regime's opponents who fled into exile.

Government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said the UN is free to go to Burundi and investigate the allegations, which he said were intended to portray Burundi as being a dangerous country.

In co-ordinated attacks, gunmen stormed three military installations in Burundi on Dec. 11. The next day, 28 people were found shot dead in three Bujumbura neighbourhoods. An eyewitness told the AP some of the dead had their hands tied behind their backs. Another witness blamed government security forces, saying they went after the victims in door-to-door searches.

President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek re-election last April touched off street protests that led to a failed coup in May and a rebellion that has left the country on the brink of civil war. Opponents and supporters of Nkurunziza have been targeting each other in gun, rocket and grenade attacks and the violence has spread to the provinces.


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