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Grenade attacks as Burundi holds controversial polls

AFP , Monday 29 Jun 2015
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Voting in Burundi's controversial elections opened Monday despite a string of grenade attacks in polling stations, the latest in weeks of violence sparked by the president's defiant bid for a third term.

Assailants threw grenades at stations in both the capital Bujumbura and in some provinces ahead of Monday's parliamentary and local elections, delaying the start of voting in many of the centres, police and election officials said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the elections to be delayed after the opposition said they would not take part, as Burundi faces its worst crisis since its civil war ended nine years ago.

"Armed groups tried to attack polling centres... they were shooting and threw grenades, but the police stopped them," deputy police chief Godefroid Bizimana said.

Stations for the parliamentary and local elections opened late in some areas, although election commission spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye insisted that, apart from some delays due to the violence, voting was "going well."

"Voting has not yet begun in many centres in the capital because election officials are trying to prepare materials and in almost all of the stations, these arrived late because of the overnight attacks," said election commission chief in Bujumbura, Cyriaque Bucumi.

On the eve of the election, top party official and parliament head Pie Ntavyohanyuma said he had joined some 127,000 other Burundians who have fled the country, denouncing President Pierre Nkurunziza's "illegal" bid to stay in power for a third term.

Burundi was plunged into turmoil in late April when Nkurunziza launched his drive for a third consecutive five-year term, triggering widespread protests.

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