BUJUMBURA: A top Burundian general and right-hand man to President Pierre Nkurunziza was killed in a rocket attack on his car today, prompting fears of further instability in the crisis-hit country.
Adolphe Nshimirimana was widely seen as the central African nation's de facto internal security chief and even considered the regime's number-two.
Police and witnesses said General Nshimirimana's pick-up was hit by two rockets and sprayed with automatic gunfire in the capital Bujumbura on Sunday morning.
The presidency's communications chief Willy Nyamitwe confirmed that the general, a former army chief of staff and intelligence chief, had been killed.
"I have lost a brother, a companion in the struggle. The sad reality is that General Adolphe Nshimirimana is no longer with this world," he said in a message posted on Twitter.
The general's driver was also killed in the attack.
The assassination came just over a week after Nkurunziza was declared the outright winner of a controversial presidential election, securing a third consecutive term despite opposition protests and international condemnation.
Nkurunziza's candidacy was condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and provoked months of protests that left at least 100 people dead in a fierce government crackdown, as well as an attempted coup in mid-May.
Nshimirimana was seen as the mastermind behind the crackdown on the protests as well as a key player in foiling the coup attempt.
African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said in a statement she was "horrified" by the assassination, condemning "this barbaric act that is likely to further destabilise the country".
She urged the Burundian government, opposition political parties and civil society "to work very closely together to find a lasting solution to the current crisis".