Nairobi: Gunmen have executed nine people in Burundi's capital hours before police launched house-to-house searches for weapons, amid international fears of fresh bloodletting in the central African nation.
Hundreds of police and soldiers ringed the opposition flashpoint Mutakura district of the capital Bujumbura early yesterday to start a widely feared crackdown on "enemies of the nation."
Residents said security forces were going door-to-door in the raids, which came on the eve of a special meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss a surge in violence and ethnic tensions in Burundi.
City mayor Freddy Mbonimpa said police were hunting for "hidden weapons," following an arms amnesty, insisting the searches were being "done professionally, because the police are using weapon detectors."
Officers later displayed around a dozen rifles and grenades they said had been seized in the raids, which officials said would continue in coming days.
The mayor also said seven people were killed in an "execution" attack on a bar on Saturday night and that a probe had been launched to find the "assassins." Two others died later of their wounds.
Witnesses said attackers stormed into the bar, forcing those drinking outside to enter and lie on the ground, before opening fire.
Burundi has suffered a dramatic rise in killings, arrests and detentions since President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a controversial bid to stand for a third term in April.
He was re-elected in July.
At least 200 people have died in the turmoil and some 200,000 have fled the country since April.
The government weapons amnesty has triggered fresh international alarm over fears it could unleash further bloodletting in a country still recovering from a 13-year civil war that ended in 2006.
"The recurring violence and killings in Burundi must stop," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Friday, while France denounced a recent wave of "hate speech" in the tiny, landlocked nation and called for a UN Security Council meeting tomorrow to discuss the deteriorating situation.
Echoing those concerns, the United States on Saturday said that "inflammatory rhetoric" and the government's planned security crackdown were "increasing the risk of an outbreak of mass violence".