Burundian rebels confessed to have launched an overnight attack on the airport in the capital city Bujumbura. The rebel’s RED-Tabara group said it fired mortars and fought the military for more than an hour.
Airport staff says they heard shelling and shooting but the air traffic was not disrupted. The incident occurred hours before President Evariste Ndayishimiye was due to fly to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
Meanwhile, a high-level army official who also wanted to remain anonymous said none of the mortar shells reached the airport.
“It is a publicity stunt by RED-Tabara on the eve of the departure of his excellency the president to the United States, to get the whole world talking about them,” he said.
The presidency confirmed Ndayishimiye’s trip on Sunday, but did not mention the incident.
Witnesses told AFP military patrols had been strengthened in areas near the airport.
RED-Tabara, which has its rear base in South Kivu in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, emerged 10 years ago and is now the most active of Burundian rebel groups.