- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) - The African Union on Friday authorized sending 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to stop deadly unrest there from deteriorating further over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s extended tenure in office.

An African Prevention and Protection Mission will be deployed to Burundi for at least six months and the mission can be extended, the group’s Peace and Security Council said.

The force’s mandate will include protecting civilians under imminent threat in the central African nation and helping to create conditions for holding inter-Burundian dialogue.

Violence in Burundi has been escalating since Nkurunziza was re-elected in July for a third term. The move was opposed by many Burundians and the international community, who say it violates the country’s constitution two-term limit.

Eighty-seven people were killed last week when unidentified attackers struck at three military installations. Human rights groups have accused Burundi’s security forces of unjustified killings of people in a counter-insurgency crackdown following the attack. Burundi’s government has insisted its troops acted professionally.

At least 400 people have been killed since April 26, when the ruling party announced Nkurunziza’s decision to run again. Nearly 3,500 people have been arrested in the political crisis and 220,000 people have fled the country.

Nkurunziza argues that his first term in office does not count because he was elected by parliament and not by the people.

Burundi’s Constitutional Court voted in favor of Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office - but the deputy president of the court fled to Rwanda and said the court’s decision was due to coercion.

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