BUJUMBURA: At least 36 Burundian refugees have been killed in clashes with Congolese security forces who allegedly fired indiscriminately at protesters, the United Nations envoy to Congo said on Saturday.
Maman Sidikou said he was "deeply shocked" at the violence. Another 117 people were injured and one Congolese officer was killed, he said in a statement.
Friday's clashes erupted in Kamanyola in Congo's South Kivu province when Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers protested the expulsion of four of their countrymen from Congo, Sidikou said, citing "credible reports" received by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo. The death of the Congolese army officer led to "the escalation of violence".
The U.N. envoy called for a swift investigation and urged Congo's security forces to use force as a last resort.
Congo's military could not immediately be reached for comment.
Roughly 44,000 refugees from Burundi are sheltering in Congo. Many fled political violence at home in 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully pursued a disputed third term amid deadly protests.
Of the people killed in Friday's clashes, 15 were women, the commander of the Pakistani battalion of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Waquara Yunusi, told The Associated Press.
The Congolese government, the U.N refugee agency and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo "have deployed teams on site to shed light on everything that happened," said the coordinator of the U.N. Communications Group in Congo, Florence Marchal.
Burundi's foreign minister, Alain Aime Nyamitwe, on Twitter asked Congo and U.N. officials for an explanation of the shootings.
Residents in the area said the killings occurred after some Burundian refugees went to the bureau of intelligence in Kamanyola to inquire about four detained refugees. Congolese soldiers responded with gunfire when some of the refugees hurled stones, said refugee Aline Nduwarugira.
Another witnesses, Alfred Rukungo, said Congolese soldiers continued shooting into the crowd even after some refugees were wounded.