Former Burundian minister Hafsa Mossi has been assassinated in the country's capital, Bujumbura.

The African nation has been rocked by deadly political violence for over a year. The bloody crisis, that has seen as many as 1,500 people killed, pits supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza against those who say his July 2015 re-election for a third term violated the nation's constitution.

Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye confirmed gunmen shot Mossi, a lawmaker with the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) – an organ of the East African Community (EAC) – on Wednesday (13 July). The EAC, whose members include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan, is a regional trade bloc aspiring to adopt a single currency and political federation.

In message posted on Twitter, Nkurikiye said Mossi - a former Information Minister and a member of Nkurunziza's ruling CNDD-FDD party - was killed by unidentified assailants in the city's eastern Mutanga district at about 10.30am local time.

A resident of the area, Achel Majabuka, told reporters that he heard gunshots and saw two men escape in a car. According to other witnesses, the gunmen fired a Kalashnikov to terrorise residents, before fleeing.

According to local media, Mossi was shot in the heart and later died at the military hospital of Kamenge, in the capital.

Hafsa Mossi, a messenger of hope

Mossi, a discreet former journalist known for her tact, made the headlines in June last year when she urged Burundian refugees not to lose hope during a visit of the Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda.

At the time, Mossi said: "Nobody can flee his or her country when he or she is safe.

"My message to them is to encourage them and to give them hope that the dialogue has started in the country, and that maybe, we should hope that in the next few months, things will become normal so that they can go back home."

Her visit followed the political and humanitarian crisis in the wake of the Burundi political crisis, which had already forced more than 100,000 Burundian citizens to flee to seek refuge in neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania.

Tributes for Hafsa Mossi

Social media users and personalities alike have paid tribute to the politician. In a tweet, President Nkurunziza described Mossi's assassination as "despicable (and) cowardly act".

Armel Niyongere, a renowned human rights lawyer - who the regime claims is part of the "radical opposition" - said Mossi's violent death "showed the insecurity that prevails in the country".

A user, Pascal Minani, said "Hafsa Mossi's death is a huge loss for every Burundian who has a human heart".

Regional personalities also expressed their grief. Kenyan Yusuf Hasa, Member of Parliament for Kamukunji in Nairobi County, for instance, said he was "deeply saddened by the brutal murder of my friend".

The attack has highlighted the precarious life of Burundi's politicians and opposition leaders, the majority of whom have now fled the country, owing to well-founded fear of being executed.

In a high profile case, human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was flown to Belgium after he was the victim of an attempted assassination in the capital Bujumbura on 3 August.