Armed robbery, kidnapping near border with Congo: police clarify

While their guns were too rusty, the two criminals were clean and well presented.

While their guns were too rusty, the two criminals were clean and well presented.

In the wake of armed robbery and kidnappings near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent weeks, the Burundi police says armed forces have arrested an undisclosed number of criminals and seized arms.

At a press conference on Friday 21 April, journalists were not allowed to speak to the accused, and police withheld details of their arrest.

Pierre Nkurikiye, the Spokesman for the National Police of Burundi, says that the criminals that have been caught staged cross-border attacks inside Burundi from the Congo, robbing and kidnapping people for ransom.

A number of attacks have taken place over the last two weeks. On 9 April, armed men attacked a bus in Gatumba where they injured two passengers and kidnapped two others including a priest and a traditional musician. The police also reported that two Burundians, a husband and his wife, both in their sixties, were kidnapped from their farm in the Congo on 17 April. They were later released.

The police say the information they have show the hostages are all still alive. Nkurikiye confirmed reports that the kidnappers often call the families of their hostages to ask for ransom. Contradictory reports, which are unconfirmed, say the old musician that was kidnapped along with the priest has been killed.

The police presented two men in their twenties that they claim have been captured in Bubanza, eastern province. The police also showed three rusty AK-47 with ammunition that they claimed the criminals used.

While the rifles were rusty and looked as if they had been unused for a long period, the two alleged criminals looked clean and well presented.

Nkurikiye did not allow journalists to put questions to the so-called criminals who were taken away shortly after journalists had filmed and photographed them.

Nkurikiye was unwilling to answer questions about the number of alleged criminals in the hands of the police. He declined to reveal at what time the accused were arrested.

Nkurikiye said, “giving the full identity of the two criminals would be counterproductive to the hunt for the remaining criminals”.

He said other similar men had been detained by armed forces in Gatumba, Gihanga and Bubanza, areas that are rife with armed robbery and kidnapping by armed groups operating from Congo. While reports say the armed men may be rebel factions, the police call them “bandits” or simply “criminals”.