Gunfire and grenade explosions rocked Bujumbura on Wednesday as President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya toured embattled neighborhoods in the capital where the Tutsi-dominated army is trying to disarm Hutu militants.
A Western diplomat said at least 30 people have been killed in a weeklong standoff between the army and Hutu militiamen in the capital's suburbs.
Trucks with loudspeakers drove through neighborhoods Wednesday urging civilians to leave, but some people said they were afraid the army might shoot them.
Lt. Col. Longin Minani, an army officer in the Gasenyi suburb, denied the soldiers had fired on civilians. "If they come out without weapons, they will not be harmed," he said.
Soldiers have sealed off the neighborhoods and the government has said the army will enter the areas by force to disarm the militias.
The government has tried without success to disarm Hutu and Tutsi militias since the assassination of Burundi's first Hutu leader, President Melchoir Ndadaye, in an attempted coup in October, 1993.
Since then, an estimated 100,000 people in Burundi have been killed in ethnic violence between the majority Hutus and the Tutsi minority. The ethnic slaughter has raised fears of a genocide similar to the one last year in neighboring Rwanda that killed up to 1 million people.