BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Violence hit Burundi’s capital again on Thursday and one man in particular narrowly escaped being killed by a mob, and he had to dive into a sewer to survive.
Protesters were angry at attacks by the Imbonerakure, the feared youth wing of the ruling party, on those demonstrating against the decision by Burundi’s president to run for a third term. The protesters decided to retaliate.
The crowd walked the streets of a neighborhood, telling people to join the protest or else. Some joined; a few ran away. They reached the house of a man identified as Jean Claude Niyonzima, and by then they were a mob. They believed him to be a member of the Imbonerakure.
They grabbed him and attacked him with sticks and stones. Some protesters had knives and machetes, but apparently did not use them.
Niyonzima kept trying to escape. He was chased through a courtyard and found himself cornered between two buildings. Bleeding from his head, he begged for his life. Members of the crowd were asking him questions, as if it were an interrogation. He squeezed through his attackers but the mob kept chasing him around his yard as women cried and begged for them to show mercy.
He finally got away and fled into the wide sewer under a hail of stones, and he sought shelter under a boarded section. Members of the crowd prepared to go in after him when soldiers, who have been acting as a buffer between protesters and the police for days, showed up. Niyonzima emerged, his hands together in front of him in a beseeching gesture as he asked the rifle-toting soldiers for help. The soldiers fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd and pulled Niyonzima out of the sewer.
Shirtless, he sat on the ground next to a wall under the soldiers’ protection.
The crowd went in search of another member of the Imbonerakure. They found another man and beat him semiconscious.
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