May 17, 2015 7:00 AM

Burundi president makes first appearance since failed coup

The Associated Press

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has made his first appearance in the capital since the attempted coup against his government last week.

Nkurunziza made a brief statement to journalists in the foyer of his heavily guarded presidential offices in Bujumbura Sunday morning. He did not mention the failed coup plot against him or the protests that have rocked Burundi for weeks over his bid for a third term in office.

Instead he described how he contacted the presidents of nearby African countries to discuss the threat from Somalia's Islamic extremists, al-Shabab.

Burundi, Kenya and Uganda contribute troops to the African Union force in Somalia that is fighting al-Shabab. The extremist rebels have retaliated by carrying out violent attacks in Kenya and Uganda.

"You know that Burundi is among the countries that is contributing troops in Somalia and that's why I came here to contact my friends and my fellow presidents in Kenya and Uganda and these countries are being targeted by al-Shabab," Nkurunziza said French.

He said his aim in contacting fellow presidents was to find strategies to stop threats to the security of Burundians.

Nkurunziza was in neighboring Tanzania on Wednesday when a general announced a coup. Loyal forces put down the rebellion and Nkurunziza returned to the country, but he had not been seen in the capital.

The coup attempt came after weeks of street protests against Nkurunziza's efforts to stay in power by standing in elections for a third term in office.

Seventeen security officials, including five generals, accused in the attempted coup appeared Saturday before a prosecutor who charged them with an attempt at destabilizing public institutions, lawyers of some of the suspects said. The general who announced the coup, however, remains at large.

In Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis called for a sense of responsibility to prevail in Burundi following the attempted coup. "I would like to invite you to pray for the dear people of Burundi, which is undergoing a delicate moment: May the Lord help all to avoid violence and act responsibly for the good of the country," he said.


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