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Burundi's Ex-Army Chief Gunned Down In Latest Violence

Col. Jean Bikomagu, Burundi's ex-army chief who led the armed forces during the country's more than decade-long civil war, was gunned down in the capital Bujumbura today, the latest in a series of apparent assassinations that the United Nations warns could be causing the country to spiral out of control.

The BBC, via Agence France-Presse, reports that Bikomagu was killed at the gates of his residence and that his daughter was badly wounded.

The U.N.'s Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told The Associated Press earlier that five assassinations of members of the ruling party in the past two weeks are "disturbing." The AP quotes Simonovic as saying "94 people have been killed in election-related violence, at least 40 torture cases have been documented and there's 'not a single case' of accountability for rights violations."

In a statement on Friday, Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva that Burundi "has been slipping closer to the edge with every high-profile attack and killing."

Burundi's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, was re-elected last month in polls that carried widespread accusations of fraud. As Reuters notes: "Tensions have been high in the central African state since late April when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office, a move his opponents and Western powers said violated the constitution and which triggered a failed coup in May."

During the country's ethnically charged civil war, from 1993 to 2005, Nkurunziza was a member of the Hutu rebel group, and Bikomagu led the Tutsis.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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