Somali Islamist group, al Shabaab, has denied claims by Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, that they intended to attack his country.
Yesterday, in his first public appearance in the capital Bujumbura after last week’s military coup, Nkurunziza told press that he had intelligence that Al Shabaab was planning to attack Burundi, Uganda and Kenya.
He told press that he had a conference call with the leaders of Uganda (President Yoweri Museveni) and Kenya (Uhuru Kenyatta) to discuss the Al Shabaab threat.
The UK Foreign Office and the US state department said Al Shabab has threatened to carry out attacks in Burundi because of its role in the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
However, the insurgents say Nkurunziza’s claims are a distraction from a political crisis in his country.
“We think that this is an attempt by him to appease his people, who are standing in the streets protesting against his dictatorship, or to divert the world’s attention from him while he possibly prepares his mass revenge,” al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahamud Rage told Reuters.
On Wednesday while Nkurunziza was in Tanzania attending an EAC Summit, his former intelligence chief, Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare staged a military coup against his government.
So far, 18 have been charged for aiding an attempted coup following their arrest while their lead Niyombare, remains at large.
Today, protesters are planning to resume protests but Nkurunziza aims to use the Al Shabaab as a scapegoat to crack down on demonstrations.
A strong presence of soldiers has been reported in Bujumbura’s Cibitoke.
Small groups of protesters have also been reported with troops stopping them from taking the streets.
At least 200 protesters were stopped in Bujumbura’s Nyakabiga neighbourhood walking, singing.
“When they approach soldiers, they put hands up,” says witnesses.
They say they will not rest until their constitution is respected.
While Al Shabaab has been attacking East Africa especially Uganda and Kenya, they have not attacked Burundi.