Burundi police
Burundi police patrol the streets of Musaga district in the capital Bujumbura after the results of the presidential elections were released, July 24, 2015. Reuters/Mike Hutchings

A senior Burundi official was killed in the nation’s capital Bujumbura, police said early Sunday. The assassination is the first of its kind since the nation descended into political turmoil in 2015.

Emmanuel Niyonkuru, Burundi’s water, environment and planning minister, was killed a little after midnight, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye reportedly said.

“Minister of water and environment killed by a criminal with a gun on his way home to Rohero, around 00:45 (05:45 p.m. EST Saturday),” Nkurikiye tweeted, four hours after the killing.

He added that a woman had been detained for questioning in connection with the murder. Nkurikiye also offered his condolences “to the family and all Burundians” promising that the murderer would be punished.

Niyonkuru is the first sitting government official killed while still in office since the country descended to chaos. The unrest was sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid for presidency for a third term, a move criticized by opponents as unconstitutional.

He returned to power for a third term in 2015 winning nearly 70 percent of the total votes despite strong opposition and a turbulent political climate. Several opposition groups refused to participate in the voting process adding to his high margin.

Nkurunziza was the first democratically elected president since Burundi’s civil war in 1994 and has ruled the country for over a decade. At least 500 people, including senior officials, were killed and over 300,000 people have been displaced since April 2015.

The president has also been accused of curtailing press freedom. New media laws signed by Nkurunziza in July 2013 ban news organizations from reporting on matters that could “undermine national security and public order or the economy.”