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West African bloc denounces ‘attempted coup’ in Burkina Faso, situation unclear

By Thiam Ndiaga and Anne Mimault

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) -The West African bloc ECOWAS on Monday condemned what it called an attempted coup in Burkina Faso, saying it held the military responsible for the safety of President Roch Kabore, whose whereabouts were unknown.

A Twitter post from Kabore’s account called on those who had taken up arms to lay them down. Reuters could not independently verify if Kabore was the author.

“Our nation is going through difficult moments. We must at this precise moment safeguard our democratic norms,” said the post, which was signed RK. “I invite those who have taken up arms to lay them down in the higher interest of the nation.”

Kabore has not appeared in public since heavy gunfire erupted at military camps on Sunday, when soldiers demanded more support for their fight against Islamist militants. The government then denied that the army had seized power

Following heavy gunfire overnight around Kabore’s residence in the capital Ouagadougou, four security sources and one diplomat told Reuters the president was being detained by mutinous soldiers at an army camp.

However, two other security sources including one close to Kabore, said he had been taken to a secure location for his own protection.

Reuters could not independently verify Kabore’s situation.

“ECOWAS is following with great concern the evolution of the political and security situation in Burkina Faso, characterised since Sunday 23 January by an attempted coup d’etat,” the organisation said in a statement.

“ECOWAS condemns this extremely grave act … It holds the military responsible for the physical wellbeing of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore,” it said.

Several armoured vehicles belonging to the presidential fleet could be seen near Kabore’s residence, riddled with bullets. One was spattered with blood.

Three armoured vehicles and soldiers wearing balaclavas were stationed outside the headquarters of the state broadcaster.

Government sources could not immediately be reached on Monday. Rumours circulated of an imminent broadcast by a military officer, but none had taken place by 1430 GMT.


The French embassy, in a message on its website, advised French nationals in Burkina Faso against going out during the day for non-essential reasons, or at all at night.

“The situation remains quite confusing,” it said, adding that two Air France flights scheduled for Monday night had been cancelled and that French schools in Burkina Faso would remain closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Kabore has faced waves of street protests in recent months as frustration has mounted over the frequent killing of civilians and soldiers by militants, some of whom have links to Islamic State and al Qaeda.

A militant attack in November on a gendarmerie post in Inata, in the northerly Soum region, killed 49 military police officers and four civilians. It later emerged the forces stationed there had run out of food and been forced to slaughter animals in the vicinity for two weeks.

Protesters came out to support the mutineers on Sunday and ransacked the headquarters of Kabore’s political party. The government declared a curfew from 2000 GMT to 0530 GMT until further notice and closed schools for two days.

The turmoil in Burkina Faso comes after successful military putsches over the past 18 months in Mali and Guinea, where the army removed President Alpha Conde last September.

The military also took over in Chad last year after President Idriss Deby died in combat.

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in West Africa, despite being a gold producer.

Islamist militants control swathes of the country and have forced residents in some areas to abide by their harsh version of Islamic law, while the military’s struggle to quell the insurgency has drained scarce national resources.

Kabore had pledged in November to end “dysfunction” in the army, saying an inquiry into the Inata attack would be followed by disciplinary measures, and that he would launch an anti-corruption drive.

Some of the anger late last year was also directed against former colonial ruler France, which has deployed thousands of soldiers in West Africa’s Sahel region to combat the militants.

(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga and Anne Mimault in Ouagadougou; Additional reporting by David Lewis, Nellie Peyton and Bate Felix in Dakar and Moussa Aksar in Niamey; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Peter Graff, Alex Richardson, William Maclean and Kevin Liffey)


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