Burundi roiled by apparent coup d'etat

BUJUMBURA, Burundi - An army general says on a private radio station in Burundi that President Pierre Nkurunziza's mandate is over, however whether he has support of the military was unclear as gunfire echoed in the streets.

Protesters were in the streets Wednesday for the third week, protesting the president's bid for a third term. Army troops surrounded state radio.

Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare read a statement on Bonesha FM radio saying the president is fired. Nkurunziza was believed to be in the neighboring country of Tanzania for a conference that was called to to end the unrest. He has denied the coup.

A police officer opened fire at protesters in Burundi's capital Bujumbura on Wednesday before Niyombare declared the takeover attempt.

The shooting came just as demonstrations against the president's bid for a third term heated up, with troops surrounding the national radio station.

The number of casualties is unknown.

Protesters carry a dead crow as they chant anti-government slogans during demonstrations against the ruling CNDD-FDD party's decision to allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third five-year term in office, in Bujumbura, Burundi April 30, 2015. REUTERS

Thousands of people were in the streets of Bujumbura in one of the largest turnouts in protests over Nkurunziza's bid for a third term as presidents from East Africa arrived in neighboring Tanzania to discuss the political turmoil here.

Police also fired tear gas and water cannons to repulse protesters trying to enter the central business district of Bujumbura. A group of women protesters managed to infiltrate the police cordon and entered the central business district.

An Associated Press journalist was present when a police officer fired around five single shots at the protesters in Bujumbura.

Protesters say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in June elections is illegal.

At least 15 people have been killed and more than 220 have been injured in the protests, which are now in their third week, according to Burundi's Red Cross.

The latest violence comes as East African leaders meet in Tanzania to discuss Burundi. The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has also traveled to Dar es Salaam to contribute to the emergency meeting, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.

Thomas-Greenfield will express U.S. concern about the situation in Burundi as well as U.S. support for the Arusha Agreement which ended Burundi's civil war a decade ago and political dialogue among all parties to ensure peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi, the statement said.

The protests started on April 25 after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to run for re-election in elections set for June.

More than 50,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries fearing violence ahead of the elections, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Burundi's Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first term, leaving him open to be popularly elected to two terms.