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Local media: Burundi opposition figure shot dead in capital

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The leader of a Burundi opposition party was killed Saturday by unknown assailants in the nation’s capital, Bujumbura, local media reported.

Zedi Feruzi of the UPD-Zigamibanga party was slain late Saturday in a drive-by shooting in which at least one of his bodyguards was also killed, Iwacu, a prominent news organization in Burundi, reported on its website.

Feruzi was outside his house when a car approached and its occupants sprayed him with bullets, according to Iwacu.

The killing, which took place in Bujumbura’s Ngagara district, is likely to raise tensions in the Central African country that has been hit by political unrest since late last month when it was announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek another term in office in elections set for June 26.

The U.N. secretary-general condemned the killing and said it threatens to “entrench mistrust and trigger further violence,” according to a statement from Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman.

Nkurunziza’s effort to stay in power sparked street protests that have lasted for four weeks and in which at least 20 people have been killed and 431 injured. The turmoil sparked a failed coup against the president by some senior military officers.

Protesters say Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term is illegal because the constitution only allows for two five-year terms, and some protesters are vowing to stay on the streets until Nkurunziza says he will not run for re-election. Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 and won a second term in 2010. He maintains he is eligible for a third term because parliament elected him for the first term, not a direct vote.

Amid the unrest, the international community has been urging Nkurunziza to delay the elections, and the U.S. has expressed disappointment over Nkurunziza’s decision to seek more time in office.

Nearly 100,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries, citing fears over political violence, with the number expected to rise to 200,000 in six months, according to the U.N. Many of them have sought refuge in unsanitary refugee camps in Tanzania, where they also face a cholera outbreak in which more than 30 people have died in recent days. Others have fled to Congo and Rwanda.

Burundi, a poor country which exports mostly coffee and depends heavily on foreign aid, experienced an ethnic-based civil war from 1993 to 2003 which killed at least 250,000 people.

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This story has been corrected to show that 100,000 people have fled Burundi, not 200,000.

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