(Reuters) - Hundreds of students from a Burundi university shuttered by the government were seeking refuge outside the U.S. embassy in the capital on Friday, amid unrest and escalating tensions ahead of the June 26 presidential vote.
The east African nation has been rocked by days of protests triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term, a move opponents say violates the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.
Citing security fears, the government on Wednesday closed University of Burundi, a prestigious institution where Nkurunziza taught physical education in the mid-1990s. Students said they left halls on Thursday but feared making the journey home in case they were targeted by the government.
"We are here for security because we have been chased from the campuses," said Donation, a student who did not wish to give his surname. Hundreds of others were by at the embassy perimeter wall.
Next door at a construction site students queued for handouts of soup, bread and oranges. Several said they opposed Nkurunziza seeking a third term.
They said Dawn Liberi, U.S. ambassador to Burundi, visited them and said she had raised their plight with the authorities but did not promise them asylum, as some of them wanted. The embassy had no immediate comment.
Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour told Nkurunziza on Thursday that Burundi risks "boiling over", especially if political space is closed for opponents.
“We have urged the government not to let the situation get past a point of no return, because if that happens the gains of the last decade really will be at risk,” Malinowski said, adding there would be "consequences" if violence continued
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Students queue outside the US embassy after their university shut down.[/caption]