October 31, 2015 / 6:19 PM / in 2 years

Clashes at Burundi funeral procession kill one, stoking tensions

NAIROBI (Reuters) - At least one man was killed and a dozen injured in clashes involving police and people in a bus who had been attending a funeral near Burundi’s capital, the police and witnesses said.

Details of the latest violence in the country’s deepening political crisis were in dispute, with each side claiming the other had initiated the clash.

Police said they went the scene because of reports that some mourners had weapons and responded to being shot at. The funeral was for a Rwandan, Theoneste Mukurarinda, who police said had led an attack on a youth center.

Contradicting this, witnesses at the site north of the capital said police in riot gear had turned up in three trucks and then attacked the mourners.

Burundi was plunged into crisis in April when Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term presidential term, a move the opposition said violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2005. A court said he could run.

Since then, the capital has been the focus for weeks of protests followed by frequent grenade attacks and shootings.

Experts say “tit-for-tat” assassinations of government officials and members of the opposition risk driving the nation back into another conflict and could reopen old ethnic wounds. Burundi lies next to Rwanda, scene of a 1994 genocide.

Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye gave an account of Saturday’s events to a news conference. “The police were shot at first by those people and (police) responded, killing one person and injuring 12 others, who were arrested,” he said.

Witnesses at the scene dismissed this version. One said: “It is not true. Frankly speaking, those people from the funeral were ambushed and attacked by the police from afar.”

Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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