Major General Godefroid Niyombare announced that he had deposed Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza for seeking an unconstitutional third term in office, and was working with civil society groups to form a transitional government.

But as cheering crowds streamed into the streets of the capital Bujumbura, sporadic gunfire was heard in the city centre, and it was not immediately clear how much support Niyombare had.

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Crowds pour onto the streets of Burundi's capital to celebrate after a general said he was dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza for violating the constitution by seeking a third term in officeGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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A man cheers as he celebrates the coup in Bujumbura, BurundiGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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People greet soldiers as they celebrate in Bujumbura, after a general said he was dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza for violating the constitutionGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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A man holds a riot police shield during celebrations in BujumburaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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People celebrate in a street in Bujumbura after President Pierre Nkurunziza was dismissed in a coupGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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A man celebrates on a street in BujumburaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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People celebrate on a street in Bujumbura after it was reported that President Pierre Nkurunziza had been overthrownGoran Tomasevic/Reuters

The president is at an African summit in Tanzania to discuss the crisis in his country, but the presidential office swiftly rubbished the declaration by Niyombare, who had been fired as Nkurunziza's intelligence chief in February.

"We consider it as a joke, not as a military coup," presidential aide Willy Niyamitwe told Reuters.

Before Niyombare's announcement, protesters demonstrated on Bujumbura's streets. In some neighbourhoods, they battled past police in an effort to reach the central business district. One policeman was seen opening fire on protesters.

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A policeman and a protester clash in BujumburaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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A policeman walks past a burning barricade during a protest against President Pierre NkurunzizaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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A man stands in front of a burning barricade during a protest against President Pierre NkurunzizaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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Policemen clash with protesters near the Parliament building in BujumburaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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Protesters carry a national flag during a protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term, in BujumburaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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Police officers run from protesters during a demonstration against President Pierre NkurunzizaGoran Tomasevic/Reuters
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A protester holds up a dead owl to mock the ruling party whose emblem is an eagleGoran Tomasevic/Reuters

Niyombare made his declaration to reporters at a barracks in Bujumbura after more than two weeks of protests against Nkurunziza's attempt to win a third term.

After the announcement, crowds of people streamed out onto the streets of the capital. There was little sign of the police, hated by protesters for breaking up demonstrations by force, and widely considered loyal to Nkurunziza's party.