British photojournalist Phil Moore was arrested early Thursday morning in a police raid in Bujumbura, Burundi, according to reports. 17 other people, including Le Monde Africa bureu chief Jean Philippe Remy, were also detained in raids that swept through two neighborhoods in the capital.
“The two foreigners were arrested in the company of armed criminals,” Burundi’s security ministry said, according to Agence France-Presse. The report also quoted police spokesman Moise Nkurunziza, who said the journalists “have not been charged” and would be released “If there is no evidence against them.”
Burundi is the focus of international concern as violence between President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government and armed opposition groups continues to escalate following Nkurunziza’s decision in April 2015 to seek a third term. Nkurunziza won a disputed election in July. United Nations and African Union officials have been urging Nkurunziza to allow an AU peacekeeping force into the country to prevent an ethnic conflict.
Moore has been covering the situation in Burundi since the violence began last April. Before his arrest, Moore tweeted, “Several young men rounded up and questioned by police in Jabe neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, following gunshots last night.”
— Phil Moore (@fil) January 27, 2016
UPDATE: On Friday the French government, Agence France-Presse and Le Monde demanded the release of both journalists.”I call on Burundi’s authorities to proceed with their immediate release. Diplomatic procedures are underway,” said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius in a statement. In a separate statement addressed to President Nkurunziza, AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said, “There is no justification for the arrest of these two experienced reporters who are widely respected in the profession. We ask you, Mr President, to immediately intervene to obtain the release of these two reporters and to take all the necessary steps to ensure their safety”
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