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Burundi president returns, coup leaders arrested

Several military leaders involved in the plot were arrested, the president’s office said Friday.

By Ed Adamczyk
Burundi president returns, coup leaders arrested
Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi. Several military leaders involved in a plot to overthrow the president were arrested, the president’s office said Friday. Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum/ Flickr.

BUJUMBURA , Burundi, May 15 (UPI) -- An attempted overthrow of Burundi's government was foiled with the return of the president and the arrest of several military leaders involved in the plot, the president's office said Friday.

President Pierre Nkurunziza returned from a summit conference in Tanzania to address the nation Friday. Coup leader, Major Gen. Godefroid Niyombare remains at large, although he has indicated he is prepared to surrender.

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Gunfire between troops loyal to the president and to Niyombare could be heard Thursday in Bujumbura, the capital of the landlocked and impoverished central African country, as could the cheers of crowds who believed the coup attempt was a success. Demonstrators have protested Nkurunziza's oppressive leadership and his attempt to run for a third term as president in June's election, contrary to Burundi's constitution.

The U.S. embassy in Bujumbura was closed Friday, with U.S. citizens advised to leave the country. Many airlines cancelled international flights to and from the city.

Niyombare announced Wednesday by radio, a crucial communications lifeline in Burundi, that a military overthrow was underway. He had been the country's intelligence chief until his firing in February.

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"I would call this an attempted coup -- we don't know whether or not it has been successful. What we have heard is that there has been both fighting and negotiations overnight; it is still very unclear," observed Tim Stevens, a professor at London's King's College and analyst of political violence.

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