UN concerned by rise in Burundi detentions

Demonstrators march during a rally in Bujumbura on May 14, 2016, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the failed attempt of a goverment coup (AFP Photo/) (AFP/File)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United Nations is deeply concerned by a surge in violence in Burundi and a rise in the number of detentions in recent days, a UN spokesman said Monday.

The heightened tensions came around the one-year anniversary of an attempted coup to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza.

"We are deeply concerned by the hike in violence and the reports of an increased number of detentions in recent days," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

UN officials are closely monitoring the situation, he said.

The United Nations renewed its appeal for dialogue to overcome the crisis sparked by Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term which he went on to win in elections in July.

Around a hundred people were arrested in Bujumbura on Friday in a series of roundups by security forces targeting opposition strongholds, according to officials and witnesses.

Dozens of police and soldiers went door-to-door, street-by-street, compiling lists of residents and visitors and taking many away for questioning, mostly young men, according to witnesses.

On Wednesday in Bujumbura security forces again arrested more than 100 people. Most were released soon afterwards but witnesses said about a dozen detainees have not been seen since.

Burundi's Supreme Court last week sentenced 21 army officers who were allegedly involved in the coup plot in May last year to life in prison.

Burundi has been in crisis since April of last year, raising fears that the country could slide into ethnic warfare similar to the violence that tore apart Rwanda in 1994.

At least 500 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have fled the country.