Gunfire has been heard near the home of embattled Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, adding to fears that a military coup might be under way. Hours earlier, mutinous soldiers seized a military base, AP reports.
Gunfire rang out late Sunday near the home of Burkina Faso’s embattled President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, raising the specter that a military coup might still be under way after mutinous soldiers seized a military base earlier in the day.
Government officials had sought to reassure people that the situation was under control even as shots rang out for hours at the army base. But by day’s end anti-government protesters supporting the mutineers also had set fire to a building belonging to Kabore’s party.
It was not immediately known whether Kabore was at home but several people in the area told The Associated Press that in addition to gunfire they could hear helicopters hovering overhead.
The government denied rumors of a coup, but soldiers who want changes to the fight against Islamists appear to have taken control of several military bases, reports the New York Times
A mutinous soldier also told AP by phone that heavy fighting was under way near the presidential palace, a claim that could not immediately be independently corroborated.
Sunday’s mutiny came one day after the latest public demonstration calling for Kabore’s resignation as anger has mounted over the government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency. Anti-government protesters lent public support to the mutinous soldiers, prompting security forces to use tear gas to disperse crowds in the capital.
The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, which already has suspended Mali and Guinea in the past 18 months over military coups, issued a statement of support for Burkina Faso’s embattled president and urged dialogue with the mutineers.
Defense Minister Aimé Barthelemy Simpore told state broadcaster RTB that a few barracks had been affected by unrest not only in the capital of Ouagadougou but in other cities, too. He denied, however, that the president had been detained by the mutineers, even though Kabore’s whereabouts remained unknown.
“Well, it’s a few barracks. There are not too many,” Simpore said. “In some of these barracks, the calm has already returned. So that’s it for the moment. As I said, we are monitoring the situation.”
A news headline on the state broadcaster described the gunfire as “acts of discontent by soldiers.”
“Contrary to some information, no institution of the republic has been targeted,” the headline continued.
At the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks in the capital, however, angry soldiers shot into the air Sunday, directing their anger over army casualties at the president.
Lamizana Sangoule houses the army’s general staff and a prison whose inmates include soldiers involved in a failed 2015 coup d’état.
About 100 motorcycles later left the base, chanting in support of the mutineers, but were stopped when security forces deployed tear gas.
The soldiers put a man on the phone with The Associated Press who said that they were seeking better working conditions for Burkina Faso’s military amid the escalating fight against Islamic militants.
Among their demands are increased manpower in the battle against extremists and better care for those wounded and the families of the dead. The mutinous soldiers also want the military and intelligence hierarchy replaced, he said.
There were signs Sunday that their demands were supported by many in Burkina Faso who are increasingly distressed by the attacks blamed on al-Qaida and Islamic State-linked groups. Thousands have died in recent years from those attacks and around 1.5 million people have been displaced.
“We want the military to take power,” said Salif Sawadogo as he tried to avoid tear gas on the streets of Ouagadougou. “Our democracy is not stable.”
Speaking on national television on Sunday, Defence Minister General Bathelemy Simpore denied rumours that President Roch Marc Kabore had been detained, adding the motive behind the gunfire was still unclear
“The head of state has not been detained; no institution of the country has been threatened,” Simpore said.
“For now, we don’t know their motives or what they are demanding. We are trying to get in contact with them,” he said, adding that calm had returned to some of the barracks.
Kabore first took office in 2015, winning the election held after longtime President Blaise Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising.
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