Burundi’s army said Sunday that armed men fired on civilians near the city of Bujumbura, an attack claimed by rebels known for making cross-border incursions from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a statement, the rebel group RED-Tabara said it launched the attack late Saturday, destroying an aircraft communications tower in Bubanza province, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of Bujumbura.
The group made no mention of casualties in its statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
But three sources — a local government official and two residents in Gihanga commune where the attack occurred — said explosions were heard around 9:40 pm (1940 GMT) and that two people were killed and a third injured in a firefight.
Burundi’s army confirmed an attack on civilians but not the reports of deaths.
“These people fired on civilians from two vehicles,” Colonel Philibert Biyereke, the spokesman for Burundi’s National Defence Forces, said of the attack via WhatsApp message.
He said it “was a matter of public security” and did not elaborate further when asked about reports of casualties or claims made by RED-Tabara to have carried out the attack on aviation infrastructure.
A local government official, who refused to be named, said police and security forces were hunting the attackers but it was believed they had already retreated over the border to eastern DR Congo roughly five kilometers away.
“People are afraid, because it has been more than a year since there have been attacks in our region, since the army was deployed on the other side of the border.”
In August 2022, Burundi sent hundreds of troops into South Kivu in DR Congo as part of an East African military force to confront armed groups seeking refuge in the restive province.
RED-Tabara, which has a rear base in South Kivu, emerged more than a decade ago and is now the most active of Burundi’s rebel groups.
It is accused of being behind many deadly attacks and ambushes across the East African country since 2015.
In 2020, it said it was behind a series of attacks that killed more than 40 people from the security forces and the youth league of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.