A top advisor to Burundi's president and the most public face of the government has escaped an assassination attempt in the capital Bujumbura, officials said Tuesday.
A top advisor to Burundi's president and the most public face of the government has escaped an assassination attempt blamed on Rwanda, in the latest political attack in the crisis-wracked nation.
The attack took place late on Monday when a group of gunmen ambushed Willy Nyamitwe, the government's top spokesman, as he was returning to his home in the capital Bujumbura.
The assailants opened fire and threw grenades, killing one of his bodyguards but leaving Nyamitwe with only minor injuries to his arm.
Police said the gunmen were waiting in a nearby house which was under construction, blaming the botched assassination on Rwanda.
"Rwanda's role in the current crisis in Burundi is undeniable," police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye told reporters on Tuesday.
He said two conspirators had been arrested, one of whom admitted the mission was sponsored by neighbouring Rwanda, with whom Burundi has fraught relations.
"It is the same enemy, they are criminals based in Kigali," said Nkurikiye.
Burundi has repeatedly accused Rwanda of meddling in its affairs, supporting rebels and seeking to destabilise the government.
Nyamitwe is one of the most prominent voices in Burundi, an active tweeter who frequently criticises the West for interfering in the central African nation.
"I thank those who wish me a speedy recovery. I am doing well but saddened by the death of a best friend, the policeman Gasongo," he tweeted after the attack.
His brother Alain Aime Nyamitwe, Burundi's foreign minister, described the assassination bid as "a new, pointless effort to disturb republican institutions".
Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April last year to run for a third term, which he went on to win.
More than 500 people have been killed in the unrest and at least 300,000 have fled the country, while several well-known figures, including high-ranking military officers, have been assassinated.
The European Union said in a statement that the attack "reflects the continuing climate of violence in Burundi characterised by numerous murders and forced disappearances."
In April, Human Rights Minister Martin Nivyabandi and his wife were injured in a grenade attack while leaving church.
General Adolphe Nshimirimana, considered Nkurunziza's right-hand man, was killed in August 2015, the highest-ranking member of the regime to be assassinated.
A volley of reports by international rights groups accusing the government of atrocities and warning of genocide has infuriated Bujumbura, which says there is a "foreign plot" to overthrow the government.
Burundi in October informed the United Nations it intended to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.
It also suspended cooperation with the UN human rights office and declared three UN rights investigators persona non grata after a damning September report detailing atrocities.
A report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) two weeks ago warned of the risk of genocide in the country which suffered a brutal civil war from 1993 to 2006 between majority Hutus and minority Tutsis that claimed an estimated 300,000 lives.
In response, Nyamitwe launched the hashtag #ThisisMyGenocide, posting pictures of himself posing with a kitten and juggling eggs to mock the "biased report".