West African diplomat and four security sources reported on Monday that Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore has been detained at a military camp by mutinying soldiers. Kabore’s detention came after sustained gunfire rang out from military camps on Sunday night in the capital Ouagadougou with soldiers demanding more support for their fight against Islamist militants.
The government had denied that the army had seized power. Kabore’s exact whereabouts or situation were unknown on Monday morning, with conflicting reports circulating among security and diplomatic sources.
Several armoured vehicles of the presidential fleet, riddled with bullets, could be seen near the president’s residence. One was spattered with blood.
Residents of the president’s neighbourhood reported heavy gunfire overnight. 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.
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 the Islamic State and al Qaeda.
A militant attack in November on a gendarmerie post in Inata, in the northern 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 came 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 in 2021 after President Idriss Deby died on the battlefield.
Burkina Faso was 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.
Buffeted by street protests, 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 in Burkina Faso in 2021 was also directed against former colonial ruler France, which has deployed thousands of soldiers in West Africa’s Sahel region to combat the militants.
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