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Anti-government demos in Burundi

Burundi's anti-government street demonstrations have continued for a third day as residents protest president Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term.

A heavy security presence prevented groups of angry protesters from reaching the centre of the capital. Police watched as demonstrators in the suburbs of Bujumbura, the capital, burned tires and erected barricades in the streets. Some threw stones at the police.

In clashes the police have been shooting bullets, tear gas and water cannon, according to Human Rights Watch, which said in a statement late yesterday that at least two people had been killed and several others wounded. The Burundi Red Cross said, however, that it has confirmed six deaths.

Burundian police today arrested Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a leading human rights activist and government critic, and also shut down an independent radio broadcaster, said Human Rights Watch.

The ruling party denounced the anti-government protests in Bujumbura as "nothing short of rebellion," in a statement.

Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa condemned the police for acting like the militia of the ruling party and said the street protests would continue until Mr Nkurunziza respects the constitution.

Mr Nkurunziza first came to power in 2005 after being voted in by lawmakers. He then ran unopposed and was re-elected in 2010. His critics say another term for him is unconstitutional.

Presidential elections are scheduled for June 26 and tensions have been rising since January, with thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring countries. More than 20,000 Burundians have gone to Rwanda and at least 4,000 more are in Congo, said the UN.

The number of Burundians crossing into Rwanda rose sharply over the weekend, with more than 5,000 refugees entering Rwanda in two days, said Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman in Geneva for the UN refugee agency.

Those who oppose Mr Nkurunziza running for a third term include members of his own party, lawmakers, the clergy, student groups and civic organizations.

Many of those fleeing to Rwanda allege violence by the ruling party's youth wing, known as Imbonerakure.

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