Burundi Major General Godefroid Niyombare
Burundi Major General Godefroid NiyombareReuters File

Reports coming out of Burundi capital Bujumbura claim that the attempted coup led by a senior army officer has failed.

Early on 13 May, amid heavy gunfire and explosions, General Godefroid Niyombare, a former ally of  President Pierre Nkurunziza, announced that he has dismissed the country's president.

General Niyombare declared that he no longer recognises President Pierre Nkurunziza as the country's leader.  

Niyombare, who is also the country's former intelligence chief, said he staged the coup to oppose Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term.

Following his announcement, the Bujumbura airport and the landlocked nation's borders were closed. However, on Thursday morning, after a night of heavy fighting, the chief of Burundi's armed forces announced that the attempted coup against Nkurunziza had failed, reported AFP.

Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb, reporting from Bujumbura, stated that 'military factions loyal to the president are fighting those loyal to the coup leader'.

Amid the confusion, there is still no clarity on who really controls the country. President Nkurunziza left a summit he was attending in Tanzania and attempted to return back to the country, but it is being reported that his plane was forced to return to Tanzania. His whereabouts are still unknown.

A statement from the Burundi presidency said, "It is with regret that we have learnt that a group from the armed forces mutinied this morning and declared an imaginary coup."

BBC reporters in Bujumbura said that the protesters have burned down a national jail after releasing detained demonstrators.

Despite reports that the coup attempt had failed, clashes continued in the country on Thursday.

Who is Godefroid Niyombare?

The 46-year-old general, who led the coup, is a former rebel CNDD-FDD commander and used to be a close ally of President Nkurunziza.

It is reported that in February, Niyombare, who was then the chief of the Burundian national intelligence office, had argued in a "15 page" memo why Nkurunziza should not seek a third term.

Soon after this, he was  sacked from his position as intelligence chief.

 Filip Reyntjens, professor of law and politics at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and an expert in the African Great Lakes region, told Voice of America that General Godefroid Niyombare is well- known and respected.

Earlier in his career, Niyombare also served as Burundi's ambassador to Kenya, where his work was appreciated.

General Niyombare, who is the first ethnic Hutu to rise to the rank of an army chief, played a key role as a negotiator in peace talks with rebel group FNL.