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Burundi coup bid: Groups seek Bujumbura control

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Rival groups of soldiers in Burundi are vying for control of the capital Bujumbura amid confusion over the success of an attempted coup.

Fighting is reported at sites including the state TV building and airport.

A senior military source has told the BBC that soldiers loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza are back in control of key parts of the city. Coup leaders insist they remain in charge.

The unrest began when Mr Nkurunziza announced he was seeking a third term.

Opponents say the bid contravenes the constitution.

The coup was announced by Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare, a former intelligence chief and ally of the president, after Mr Nkurunziza - who came to power in 2005 - left for Tanzania on Wednesday.

"The masses vigorously and tenaciously reject President Nkurunziza's third-term mandate. President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties," he said in a radio broadcast.

Thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate the announcement, marching on the centre of Bujumbura alongside soldiers and two tanks.

But heavy fighting was heard overnight, reportedly between troops loyal to the rival factions.

"We didn't sleep at night because of fear.... a lot of explosions and gunshots can be heard everywhere... and people are scared," one witness told the BBC.

"But we still don't know the real situation here. We know that there is a fight but we still don't know what's going on."

Earlier, the army chief of staff - a supporter of the president - announced the coup "has been stopped" after he held talks with the defence minister, who backs the overthrow.

And President Nkurunziza tweeted on Thursday that the situation was under control and "constitutional order has been safeguarded".

One senior military source told BBC Afrique that troops loyal to the president had seized back full control of the presidential palace, the national radio and television station, the airport and the centre of Bujumbura.

But this has been contradicted by the coup leaders, one of whom said they were in control of "virtually the entire city" of Bujumbura.

"The soldiers who are being deployed are on our side," coup spokesman Venon Ndabaneze also told the AFP news agency.

The scenes of joy in the streets on Wednesday have been replaced by an uneasy silence, interrupted by sporadic gunfire. The streets of Bujumbura are deserted. It has been an anxious night.

People have their ears stuck to their radio sets, listening to the only two private broadcasters still running. One of the two was attacked overnight. The popular RPA - Radio Publique Africaine, which broadcast an interview with Gen Niyombare on Wednesday - was also targeted and had to shut down.

The usually vibrant private media play a key role in shaping opinion here, and President Nkurunziza's supporters have been targeting them since the beginning of the crisis.

A lot of the tension overnight was also concentrated around the national broadcaster, which is strategic because it is the only outlet still broadcasting outside the capital.

Source: bbc

May 14 2015, 15:39

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