August 15, 2015 / 2:51 PM / 2 years ago

Former Burundian military chief shot dead in capital

Burundi's army chief Colonel Jean Bikomagu seen March 18, 1994

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Burundi’s former army chief of staff on Saturday in the second high-profile killing this month amid chaos linked to the disputed reelection of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Col. Jean Bikomagu was shot dead outside his home in Bujumbura in the morning as he returned from church, said a witness who declined to give his name. His daughter, who was with him, was seriously wounded and rushed to hospital.

Gunmen killed a former Burundian security chief and close ally of Nkurunziza in early August. The next day, a prominent human rights activist who openly opposed Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office was shot and seriously wounded.

“Another black weekend in Burundi. Blackened by the assassination of a senior member of the Burundian army in retirement, Colonel Jean Bikomagu ...Very sad, very shocking,” presidency spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said on Facebook.

Bikomagu was army chief during the civil war that started in 1993 when the Tutsi-dominated army was fighting then rebel leader, and now President, Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD Hutu rebels.

Nkurunziza was reelected in July to a third term that opponents and Western powers said violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended the civil war in 2005.

On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office in Geneva said at least 96 people had been killed since the start of election-related unrest in April and urged leaders to renounce violence and resume their political dialogue.

The witness and a relative described Bikomagu’s death as an assassination. “He was in front if his gate, ready to enter his home, when a gunman who pulled out of the back of a motorcycle shot at him,” the witness said.

“He was not killed by bandits and there was no money stolen, it’s something else,” said a relative who also did not wish to be named.

The presidency spokesman said the attackers would be caught and tried and issued an appeal “that anger and desire for revenge are contained by respect for justice and the desire to live together.”

The election-related violence has been especially frequent in the capital Bujumbura, where the sound of gunfire is regularly heard at night.

Additional reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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