Unidentified gunmen killed six civilians and wounded three others in a restive part of northern Burundi, a government official said Friday, the latest in a string of deadly attacks.
The assailants launched a series of coordinated assaults late Thursday on several locations in the village of Matongo, before retreating to the dense cover of a nearby jungle that has long served as a rebel hideout.
One victim was still missing, said Alice Nsabiyunva, the administrator of Matongo, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) northeast of the main city of Bujumbura.
Four men and two children were killed, said one witness to the attacks who declined to be identified.
Last week, the wife and son of a local leader in the same region were killed by gunmen who attacked from the thick forests of Kibira, Nsabiyunva said.
The jungles skirt Burundi’s western frontier with its much larger neighbour DR Congo, and during that country’s devastating civil war often served as a launchpad for rebel attacks.
In the past Burundi has accused rebels crossing from lawless regions of eastern DR Congo of using the impenetrable forest as cover to recruit, and as a staging ground for attacks.
The shooting at Matongo follows a recent surge in armed violence in Burundi that has fuelled fears of a thus-far unconfirmed insurgency in the small and isolated East African nation of 11 million.
Burundi’s only independent media outlet, Iwacu, last week declared “the spectre of rebellion” hung heavy after a slew of shadowy assaults by unknown gunmen. One such attack in Rumonge, along the coast of Lake Tanganyika, left at least a dozen dead, official sources and witnesses said.
“For the moment it looks like guerrilla activity carried out by small groups of armed fighters scattered across several provinces, not large scale so far,” one high-ranking Burundian army officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“But military operations are underway to try to nip them in the bud.”
Burundi was mired in civil war between 1993 and 2006 — a conflict that cost at least 300,000 lives. The country remains one of the world’s poorest and it’s post-war history has been troubled.
Evariste Ndayishimiye, a key member of the ruling party, was elected president in May this year and took office in June shortly after the shock death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza