A person killed, a truck loaded with goods burned, five other vehicles and offices of a bank riddled with bullet holes; this is the outcome announced by the Burundian authorities after an attack carried out by an armed group from the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the night of Friday to Saturday, at Gatumba border post between Burundi and the DRC, in Mutimbuzi commune (about twenty kilometers west of the capital Bujumbura).
People living near the border claim to have been awakened by heavy gunfire and explosions.
« It was half-past nine pm when the firing started. I was sleeping with my wife and children. We then rushed to hide under the bed to avoid being hit by bullets. The gunfire exchange continued until midnight, » revealed a father of four children, who thinks of an « organized rebellion ».
According to officials, it was rather a « bandits » group trying to break into a bank. That is what the Attorney General of the Republic, Sylvestre Nyandwi, indicated during a visit on the spot.
« The attackers were firing from the Congolese territory. Considering the way they targeted the branch of the Commercial Bank of Burundi (Bancobu), there is reason to believe that it was an attempted robbery. Thus, they are bandits. They were quickly pushed back, and one of them was killed, » he said before adding: « an investigation is underway. »
Vagueness, confusion, uncertainty…
What exactly happened? As yet, it is difficult to answer the question. According to witnesses, on Saturday, a large number of soldiers and police officers closed the border since five in the morning, and then patrolled the area all morning long.
No one was allowed to enter the area except security agents. Only military and police vehicles, bulldozers and ambulances could access the area, as our reporter noted.
Journalists, owners of damaged vehicles and representatives of Western embassies were kept about 3 kilometers away for at least 5 hours, under the hot sun.
Was it a way to hide pieces of evidence? It was only in the afternoon, when ambulances and other vehicles that would carry dead bodies had just left, that the media were authorized to access the area.
According to residents of Gatumba, there were reportedly human losses among the Burundian military.
« Soldiers came to our neighborhood at night seeking young men and adults who could help evacuate the dead bodies and the wounded, » a resident said.
No armed group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.
In early May, 26 people were killed and seven others wounded in a similar attack carried out in Buganda commune, northwestern Burundi, by an unidentified armed group. According to the Burundian authorities, the group had also withdrawn towards the Democratic Republic of Congo.