Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Sunday made his first public appearance in the capital Bujumbura since an attempted coup last week failed to oust him, warning of a threat posed by the Somali armed group Al-Shabab.
The east African nation was plunged into crisis last week after Nkurunziza said he was seeking a third term of office. Critics said the move would be unconstitutional, and there have been almost daily protests since Nkurunziza's announcement on May 8, stirring memories of an ethnically driven civil war that ended a decade ago.
At a news conference, Nkurunziza, who has not been seen in the capital for days, did not address the political crisis in his country directly but said he was "very preoccupied" by the threat posed by the Al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Shabab.
"We take seriously the threat of Al-Shabab," said Nkurunziza.
He did not elaborate, but Burundi contributes forces to an African Union peacekeeping mission battling Al-Shabab in Somalia. In recent years, the group has attacked Kenya and Uganda, which also provide troops. In his speech, the president, in effect, told Burundians they were either with him or with Al-Shabab.
Edouard Nduwimana, Burundi's interior minister, called on protesters not turn up on the streets Monday because the security forces would not be able to differentiate between protesters and extremists.
Speaking on state radio, Nduwimana said the security agencies had received information of extremists with explosives who could detonate them during the street protests.
Mohammed Nibaruta, an opposition activist, said this is another way for the government to justify the illegal use of force to discourage the demonstrations over Nkuruniziza's candidacy, which goes against the constitution's limit of two five-year terms.
"The government is going to use live bullets but this will not stop protesters from coming to the streets tomorrow and the day after until Nkurunziza withdraws his candidacy," Nibaruta said.
Later on Sunday, Nkurunziza's office said that parliamentary and presidential elections due to take place in Burundi in May and June could be delayed following the coup attempt.
Nkurunziza failed to answer questions posed to him by the media about his decision to run for another five-year term. The president was in neighbouring Tanzania on Wednesday when a general announced a coup.
Until the coup attempt, protests had occurred almost daily on the outskirts of Bujumbura. Protesters hurled rocks while police fired tear gas and water cannons and were also seen firing guns at the protesters.
Diplomats say the longer the unrest continues, the more chance that a conflict, which up until now has been largely a struggle for power, reopens old wounds in a region with a history of ethnic violence.
More than 105,000 people have fled to neighboring states, including next-door Rwanda, with the same ethnic mix as Burundi and which was torn apart by a genocide in 1994 that killed 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
At the Gashora camp in Rwanda, Hakizimana Leonidas, a farmer who said he was a Tutsi, said he fled Burundi a day after last week's coup attempt.
"I want to see Burundi as a peaceful country, but the problem is that those who could be protecting us are the ones causing chaos," said Leonidas, 46.
The constitution and a peace deal that ended the civil war both specify a two-term presidential limit. But Nkurunziza is seeking a third term anyway, relying on a court ruling that his first term does not count because he was appointed by parliament, not elected. His opponents and some donors have questioned the court's impartiality.
The heavy-handed response of the police to demonstrations in recent weeks has drawn stern rebukes from Western donors, who have urged the president not to run again, while the African Union condemned any attempt to seize power through violence.
In Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis called for a sense of responsibility to prevail in Burundi following the attempted coup. "I would like to invite you to pray for the dear people of Burundi, which is undergoing a delicate moment: May the Lord help all to avoid violence and act responsibly for the good of the country," he said.
Al Jazeera and wire services. Haru Mutasa contributed reporting from Bujumbura.