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Coup reported in Burundi

Crowds in the capital of Bujumbura celebtrated when they heard the news.

By
Ed Adamczyk
Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, seen here in 2014 as he visited the White House in Washington with First Lady Denise Bucumi in 2014, was reportedly overthrown Wednesday UPI/Mike Theiler
Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, seen here in 2014 as he visited the White House in Washington with First Lady Denise Bucumi in 2014, was reportedly overthrown Wednesday UPI/Mike Theiler | License Photo

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, May 13 (UPI) -- An army general in Burundi claimed the military has ousted the president of the small African nation, although the government denies it.

"President Pierre Nkurunziza is removed from office," Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare said on national radio, prompting celebrations in the streets of the capital, Bujumbura.

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Niyombare, Burundi's intelligence chief until his firing in February, cited Nkurunziza's alleged killing of protesters and political opponents, as well as general corruption in his government.

Although a Western diplomat reported hearing gunfire in the streets, a statement from the President's office referred to a mutiny of some soldiers and an "imaginary" coup; government spokesman Willy Nyamitwe referred to the alleged coup as "a joke."

It remains unclear who is in charge of Burundi, an impoverished central African country which emerged in 2005 from a 12-year civil war. Nkurunziza was out of the country as his administration unraveled, attending a conference in Kenya.

With news of the supposed coup, police withdrew from clashing with protesters in Bujumbura, and an atmosphere of festivity began, with car horns and cheering. The protesters opposed Nkurunziza's attempt to run for a third term as president, a violation of the country's constitution.

Bonesha FM and Radio Publique Africaine, radio stations that were shut down by the government, earlier in the week, returned to the air Wednesday, a lifeline of information for a country in which only 10 percent of the population has electricity and which depends heavily on radio for information.

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