An official in Burundi says rebels kill 9 people and accuses Rwanda of backing the group

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An official in Burundi says nine people have been killed in an attack by rebels opposed to his government and again accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the armed group.

Government spokesman Jérôme Niyonzima described a “cowardly attack” by assailants with rifles in western Bubanza province Sunday night.

He said six women and a soldier were among the victims of the attack in Gihanga, and five others were injured.

The rebel group RED-Tabara claimed responsibility. Its fighters are based in the South Kivu province of neighboring eastern Congo. The group said it killed six Burundian soldiers in the attack.

One resident of the area told The Associated Press that government troops fled the scene as heavily armed attackers pursued them and opened fire on civilians.

“We live in fear of being attacked at any time,” another witness said.

Both witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for their safety.

RED-Tabara also claimed responsibility for a Dec. 22 attack that it said killed 10 security officials. Burundi’s government said 20 people were killed, the majority civilians.

Burundian authorities assert that RED-Tabara operates with the support of Rwanda’s government.

“The government of Burundi once again deplores the behavior of Rwanda which maintains, trains, and arms the terrorist group RED-Tabara,” said Niyonzima, the government spokesman.

Burundi last month suspended diplomatic relations with Rwanda and closed their border, calling it a response to Rwanda’s alleged backing of RED-Tabara. Burundi’s President Évariste Ndayishimiye has accused Rwandan authorities of supporting RED-Tabara.

Rwandan officials deny the allegations.

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