BUJUMBURA, Burundi — The attempt to overthrow Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has failed, a deputy coup leader said, after a day of fierce fighting between rival army factions.
"Personally, I recognise that our movement has failed," said General Cyrille Ndayirukiye.
"We were faced with an overpowering military determination to support the system in power."
The admission of failure came shortly after the presidency announced that Nkurunziza – who was abroad when the coup was declared – had returned to his country.
He was in neighbouring Tanzania for regional talks on Wednesday when powerful general Godefroid Niyombare launched the coup, in a culmination of weeks of violent street protests against the president's bid to seek a third term.
"President Pierre Nkurunziza is now in Burundi," said his senior communications advisor Willy Nyamitwe.
"That's all we can say for now because of security reasons."
While the president's return could not be independently verified, a source close to him said the head of state "will sleep in Ngozi in his home province tonight."
The coup attempt had raised fears of a return to widespread violence in the impoverished country, which is still recovering from a 13-year civil war that ended in 2006 and left hundreds of thousands dead.
Earlier on Thursday, loyalist troops said they had fought off two major attacks by rival soldiers in an intense battle for control over the strategically important state radio office.
By mid-afternoon, station director Jerome Nzokirantevye said it was "loyalist soldiers who are in control."
Wednesday's coup announcement drew international criticism, with the United States insisting that Nkurunziza remained "the legitimate president".
The United Nations Security Council, in emergency talks on the crisis, called for an end to the violence and "the holding of credible elections" while separately, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned "attempts to oust elected governments by military force" and urged calm. — AFP