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Rebels held, arms seized in Burundi: officials

Burundi protestSecurity forces in Burundi said Monday they have arrested around 100 suspected rebels and seized a number of weapons in a crackdown ahead of next week’s presidential elections.

Police and local officials said the weapons — 30 assault rifles and ammunition — were captured in the northeastern province of Muyinga. Provincial governor Aline Maniratunga said around 30 supporters of opposition leader Agathon Rwasa were arrested in the operation.

A former rebel leader, Rwasa is now the main opponent of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term despite a constitutional two-term limit has sparked months of civil unrest and an attempted coup in mid-May.

Police also said more than 80 arrests were also made in northern Burundi following clashes on Friday near the border with Rwanda.

Burundian rebel general Leonard Ngendakumana — who took part in the failed coup in May to topple Nkurunziza — said rebel soldiers were involved in the fighting.

Over 70 people have been killed in more than two months of anti-Nkurunziza protests, with over 158,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the United Nations.

Opposition groups say Nkurunziza’s re-election bid is unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that ended a dozen years of civil war in 2006.

There are fears the current crisis could plunge the impoverished, landlocked country back into civil war.

Parliamentary polls, in which Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDD-FDD scored a widely-expected landslide win, were held on May 29 but boycotted by the opposition and internationally condemned.

Presidential elections are scheduled for July 21.

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