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Obama Orders Sanctions for Burundi Turmoil

(CN) - President Barack Obama on Monday imposed sanctions against people responsible for recent violence in the East African nation of Burundi.

The executive order does not target Burundi citizens, "but rather is aimed at activities by individuals within the government and armed groups that contribute to the turmoil there," according to a White House statement.

The East African country has seen violence on the streets and a failed coup attempt since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would pursue a third term. Nkurunziza was sworn in for his controversial third term in August.

The unrest intensified over the weekend, as at least five people were killed by unidentified assailants, according to news reports.

Obama imposed sanctions on four specific individuals: Burundi Minister of Public Security Alain Bunyoni, national police leader Godefroid Bizimana, former intelligence chief Godefroid Niyombare, and Cyrille Ndayirukiye, former Burundi Minister of Defense.

Niyombare tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Burundi government in May. He ordered the closure of the country's land borders and its primary airport in an attempt to stop Nkurunziza from returning from a trip. The coup apparently failed, as the Burundi government said in a May 13 tweet that the situation was under control.

Further sanctions can be levied against those who have engaged in or supported actions to threaten stability in Burundi, or anyone who has committed human rights abuses, the White House said. The U.S. government claims that more than 200,000 Burundians have become refugees in neighboring countries because of the crisis.

White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said Monday that the Obama administration has received credible reports of violence carried out by both security forces and rebels.

"We call upon all parties in Burundi to reject violence, and we will continue to investigate and impose consequences against leaders from the government or opposition who resort to violence and obstruct a political resolution to this crisis. Our consideration of sanctions against additional individuals is ongoing," Price said. "Burundi is on the precipice, but there is a clear path available to Burundi's leaders to avoid further violence and reach a political solution to the crisis."

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