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Published: Wednesday March 12, 2014 MYT 5:00:02 AM
Updated: Wednesday March 12, 2014 MYT 5:01:01 AM

U.S. condemns 'heavy-handed tactics' by Burundi police in clashes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday condemned what it called the use of heavy-handed tactics by Burundi's police to break up opposition party meetings at the weekend in which more than a dozen people were injured and several were arrested.

The State Department said police tried to break up a peaceful meeting by the women's wing of the United for National Progress party as they tried to mark International Women's Day. Separately, police tried to prevent an opposition meeting at the headquarters of the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy political party (MSD), the State Department added.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the Government of Burundi's actions to prevent or break up two separate meetings of opposition political parties on March 8," the State Department said in a statement.

It also criticized the MSD for taking two police officers hostage during the protests, saying that and the police actions were "inconsistent with Burundi's notable progress toward creating a peaceful democracy."

"We stress the importance of all parties in Burundi respecting the democratic process so that Burundi can hold free, fair, and peaceful elections in 2015," the State Department said.

Political wrangling in Burundi, which emerged from a 12-year civil war in 2005, has raised concerns of more unrest in a region already troubled by violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Despite relative calm in recent years, rights groups have reported scores of political killings, intimidation of the opposition and a crackdown on media since President Pierre Nkurunziza's re-election in 2010.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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