BUJUMBURA - Burundians voted Tuesday amid gunfire and grenade blasts, with President Pierre Nkurunziza widely expected to win a third term despite international condemnation and thousands of people fleeing feared violence.

The United States said the government's dismissal of calls to delay the poll ‘risks its legitimacy’ and risked ‘unravelling the fragile progress’ made by the peace deal that ended more than a dozen years of civil war and ethnic massacres in 2006. At least two people - a policeman and a civilian - were killed in a string of explosions and gunfire overnight. Blasts and shootings were also heard as polls opened shortly after dawn in the capital Bujumbura, the epicentre of three months of anti-government protests.

Willy Nyamitwe, Nkurunziza's chief communications advisor, condemned the attacks as ‘terrorist acts’ aimed at ‘intimidating voters’. Around 3.8 million Burundians were eligible to vote in the polls, which closed at 4 pm (1400 GMT).

Opposition and civil society groups have denounced Nkurunziza's candidacy as unconstitutional, with many boycotting the polls.

Centres visited by AFP reporters in Bujumbura appeared quiet with few queues, although voting was busier in pro-Nkurunziza areas. Nkurunziza himself turned up on a bicycle to vote in his home village of Buye, where turnout was high with long lines of voters. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged calm, calling on all sides to ‘refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region’.