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Gunmen forcibly enter UN human rights office in Burundi

By: ELOGE WILLY KANEZA, Associated Press
September 13, 2017 Updated: September 13, 2017 at 10:10 am
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BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Several gunmen forcibly entered the Burundi office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, officials said Wednesday. The break-in occurred a week after a new U.N. report detailed crimes against humanity in the East African country and named security forces among the alleged perpetrators.

"A group of armed men went into our office in the middle of the night, at around 2:30 a.m.," U.N. human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville in Geneva told The Associated Press. "The alarm was raised pretty quickly, and they left. Nobody was harmed. An investigation is under way."

The identities of the gunmen were not known, he said. "We don't know what this is all about."

Six gunmen "intimidated" the guards before entering, an employee in the Burundi office said. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters.

Burundian police said the incident had not been reported.

The U.N. commission of inquiry report released last week said crimes against humanity, including killings and sexual violence, are being committed in Burundi amid political unrest. It asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation as soon as possible.

Alleged perpetrators include top officials in Burundi's National Intelligence Services and police force, military officials and members of the youth league of the ruling party, known as Imbonerakure, said the report, which was based on interviews with more than 500 witnesses.

Burundi has seen political violence since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a disputed third term. Nkurunziza won re-election despite widespread protests, and the country has remained volatile. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country.

"We were struck by the scale and the brutality of the violations. We also noted a lack of will on the part of the Burundian authorities to fight against impunity," Fatsah Ouguergouz, president of the commission, said last week. Burundi's government refused to cooperate with the commission and did not allow its members to enter the country.

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed.

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