Burundi coup troops 'hunted in hospital'

AFP , Sunday 17 May 2015

Soldiers, who are escorting Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, hold their weapons in Bujumburi, Burundi, May 17, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Troops loyal to Burundi's president hunted rival soldiers in a hospital during fighting provoked by a coup in the central African nation, leading to the partial destruction of the health facility, witnesses and security sources said.

Security officials, speaking on condition they not be named, acknowledged the operation took place on Thursday when the rebel troops fought a heavy but unsuccessful battle for control over the state radio and television station.

The officials said the attack was launched based on reports that one of the top coup leaders, General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, was inside Bujumbura's Bumerec hospital.

An eyewitness said police and soldiers loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza arrived at the hospital and "asked if there were any soldiers who had arrived for treatment". The witness said one police officer and two soldiers were being treated there at the time.

The witness, who also asked not to be named, said a soldier then stormed into the emergency ward, and one of the wounded soldiers opened fire inside.

A fierce gun battle ensued, with loyalist troops evacuating the hospital and searching it.

At least one soldier died in the clash, witnesses said.

AFP reporters saw several bullet holes in the hospital building, while the inside of the facility had been ransacked with equipment destroyed.

Nkurunziza has been facing weeks of deadly street protests over his controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term in office.

On Wednesday a group of top generals announced they were overthrowing him while he was on a visit to neighbouring Tanzania.

But on Friday the coup leaders admitted defeat, having failed to capture the state broadcaster after fierce fighting with loyalist troops.

Seventeen alleged plotters appeared in court on Saturday while the alleged ringleader is still said to be on the run.

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