BUJUMBURA, Burundi — Two protesters in Burundi were shot dead Thursday, said the Red Cross, as pitched battles in the capital escalated between police and demonstrators opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term.
A protester from the capital's Ngagara neighborhood was shot dead and another was killed in the Musaga district, Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza said. Thirteen people were wounded in clashes, he said. Protesters have disregarded several orders by Nkurunziza banning the demonstrations.
Thursday's deaths raise the number of people killed to at least 20, said the Red Cross. The protests began nearly four weeks ago after the announcement of Nkurunziza's candidacy. At least 431 have been wounded.
Police fired tear gas and live bullets, mostly in the air, at protesters in Musaga Thursday. The protesters threw a hail of stones back.
Residents stayed up all night on the roads fearing that police would attack them in their houses, said Pierre Chanel Ndayizeye, who was among the protesters. They tried to prevent police from moving into Musaga with barricades of cut-down telephone poles and trees, he said.
Businesses shut down in the central business district of Bujumbura, the capital, when nearly 100 protesters maneuvered around police cordons and held demonstrations, the second time protesters managed to infiltrate the heart of city since the protests began.
Police initially ran away when they saw the group but gathered reinforcements and confronted them. The group quickly dispersed. The demonstrators came to the central business district to draw police officers from Musaga to allow the people there to protest, said Elvis Arakaza, a demonstrator.
The protests boiled over last week when an army general announced a coup which was crushed within 48 hours. Protesters say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in the June 26 presidential election is illegal because the constitution only allows for two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament — not the people — elected him for his first term.
Nkurunziza issued a decree on Tuesday postponing parliamentary election from May 26 until June 5.