Burundi General Godefroid Niyombare
Major General Godefroid Niyombare arrives at the Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) broadcasting studios to address the nation in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, on 13 May Reuters

Army units backing the coup in Burundi have taken over the RTNB public television and radio station in the capital Bujumbura on Thursday (14 May), sources close to the force have told IBTimes UK, as conflicting reports emerged from the station.

General Sylvere Habarugira, one of the coup leaders, has announced he has taken control of the broadcaster. According to a source close to Habarugira, the general is already inside the building.

Putschistes RTNB
Members of the troops backing the coup appear to be inside the RTNB station in Bujumbura ITBimes UK / Elsa Buchanan

The source told IBTimes UK loyalist soldiers have been disarmed, and "some have been killed".

The rest of the personnel and journalists emerged from the compound with their hands in the air, according to witnesses.

However, a spokesman for the coup leader said that he was "still awaiting information to confirm the takeover".

There is no confirmation of casualties or injuries sustained during the operation.

Heavy shelling has also ceased, with only occasional gun shots heard near the station, witnesses in the area said.

Just before 13:30 GMT, the state radio went back on air playing what appears to be unity, or reconciliation, songs, witnesses said.

Planned attack

Soldiers backing the coup d'etat in Burundi declared they were willing to re-take "by force" two state institutions still in the hands of ousted President Pierre Nkurunziza loyalists in the capital Bujumbura on Thursday morning.

The factions backing Nkurunziza, led by Army Chief of Staff Gen Prime Niyongabo, were this morning said to be in control of key positions including the main radio station RTNB and the presidential palace.

The general Cyrille Ndayirukiye (one of the coup leaders) said this night that "if the presidential forces did not want this to finish non-violently, then this time the army would attack the radio," a senior source close to Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare told IBTimes UK from Bujumbura.

Another source from the country's opposition, said: "If the loyalists decide not to surrender, they will take it by force".

"(But) the general said he does not want blood to be spilt".

However, as the events unfolded, the army called in reinforcements from provinces

By 12 GMT (14 May), Troops from the Mwaro province had already joined the armed forces backing the coup, and had been using their armoured vehicles to attack the state broadcaster RTNB, which was still in the bands of loyalists.

Muyinga, Kayanza and Cibitoke troops had also arrived in Bujumbura.

According to a source close to the Ministry of Defense, much of the Ngozi unit went back to Ngozi where it is allegedly taking control of the President's home in the province, but IBTimes UK can not confirm this as of yet.

President Nkurunziza statement before attack

Before 10:30 GMT, President Pierre Nkurunziza made a statement in the Kirundi language to the attention of the people of Burundi on the RTNB. As he spoke on the loyalist-run radio, he called the population to remain calm.

He also thanked the defense and safety forces of Burundi for the "good work to foil the attempted coup".

During the same interview , the Burundian president also said that "many coup leaders went " and called those who still resist to disarm, but stressed that "the country's borders are not closed".

Heavy shelling before station went off air

Before noon on 14 May, and minutes after the President's statement, witnesses confirmed heavy fighting and shelling was heard near the state-run national broadcaster RNTB.

A witness, hiding some 800 metres away from the building, told IBTimes UK the shots fired came from "heavy weapons" - supposedly armoured vehicles.

"We can hear very loud shelling from tanks. They armoured vehicles) have surrounded the building," Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, the leader of Burundi's civil society and opposition figure, confirmed in a phone interview with IBTimes UK from Bujumbura at 11.15 GMT.


(17:15 GMT 14 May) A second attack on RTNB has been called off because a senior member of the president's party is in the building, a source close to the coup leaders has told IBTimes UK. The move aims to prevent unnecessary casualties.

(14:17 GMT 14 May) Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare's spokesman has confirmed that while the RTNB's director was holed up with some pro-Nkurunziza officers with a transmitter and was able to transmit on air, troops loyal to Niyombare lost control of parts of the building after heaving fighting.

"Always moved by our desire to reconcile the nation and logical and reasonable comprehension, we decided to approach the RTNB to convince our citizens that the road the (President's troops) are following is a dead-end," Zeno Ndabaneze told IBTimes UK over the phone.

"Unfortunately, we were surprised to see that they are die-hards, that they fired on us once again. We effectively fired back for our safety and withdrew our men. We will do our hardest to avoid any pointless bloodshed."

While he avoided confirming directly that they were preparing a second attack, the spokesperson said the general would "continue to act against those who are unreasonable" as he believed "this was the only thing that could save our endangered nation".

(14:00 GMT 14 May) Army units backing the coup in Burundi, who had claimed to have taken over the RTNB public television and radio station in the capital Bujumbura on Thursday (14 May), have lost ground as forces loyal to embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza are now "holed up" in parts of the station, a source close to the group has told IBTimes UK.

The forces backing the coup were preparing a second attack, the source said, but IBTimes UK could not confirm this.

RTNB Burundi
RTNB, which was the last radio and TV broadcasting station in Burundi, stopped transmitting after the army launched its attack on the state broadcaster's compound in Bujumbura Twitter