© Reuters. People hold the flag of Burkina Faso as hundreds gather in downtown Ouagadougou to show their support for the military, in Burkina Faso, in this photo taken from a video on January 23, 2022. REUTERS TV via REUTERS
Authors Thiam Ndiaga and Anne Mimault
OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Relentless gunfire erupted from military camps in Burkina Faso on Sunday as rebel soldiers demanded more support for their fight against Islamist militants and protesters looted the headquarters of President Roch Kabore’s political party.
The government called for calm, denying speculation on social media that the army had taken power or detained Kabore.
Late Sunday, he set a curfew from 2000 GMT to 05:30 GMT until further notice and issued another statement suspending schools on Monday and Tuesday for security reasons.
A government spokesman said separately that talks were under way with rebel soldiers.
A rebel spokesman said they demanded “appropriate” resources and training for the military in its fight against militants linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State, and the resignation of army and intelligence chiefs.
Frustration in the West African gold-producing country has risen in recent months due to deteriorating security. The deaths of 49 military police in a militant attack in November sparked violent protests calling for Kabore’s resignation.
Protesters on the streets of the capital Ouagadougou on Sunday called on soldiers to move on, shouting “Free the country!”
The insurgency highlights the threat posed by growing Islamist insurgency across the Sahel region of West Africa, a semi-arid belt of land below the Sahara desert.
Militants have taken control of parts of the territory across Burkina Faso and its neighbors, Mali and Niger. In some cases, they force residents to adhere to their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
Heavy gunfire was first heard around 5:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. GMT) on Sunday at the Sangoule Lamizana camp in Ouagadougou, which houses a prison whose soldiers are soldiers who took part in a failed coup attempt in 2015, Reuters reporters said. .
Hundreds of people later came out in support of the rebels. In the Lamižana camp, where about 100 people sang the anthem and chanted, soldiers responded by firing into the air. It was unclear whether he wanted to show support for the protesters or disperse them.
In downtown Ouagadougou, near Place de la Nation, police fired tear gas to disperse about 300 protesters.
Soldiers also fired into the air at an air base near Ouagadougou International Airport, Reuters reporters reported. The U.S. embassy also reported shootings at three other military bases in Ouagadougou and bases in the northern cities of Kaya and Ouahigouya.
Elsewhere in Ouagadougou, protesters burned and looted the headquarters of Kabore’s People’s Movement for Progress (MPP), a Reuters reporter said.
A rebel spokesman, who addressed reporters in front of the Lamizan camp, called for the better welfare of the wounded fighters and their families.
Fears of the coup
The Burkina Faso government has confirmed shootings at some military camps, but has denied reports on social media that the military has taken power.
Speaking on national television, Defense Minister General Bathelemy Simpore said the reasons for the shooting are still unclear.
“The head of state has not been detained; no institution of the country is endangered,” Simpore said.
Kabore was not seen in public. His Twitter (NYSE 🙂 account tweeted to encourage the Burkina Faso national football team in the African Cup of Nations match against Gabon, and then later congratulated them on their victory. He did not mention the events at home.
NetBlocks, the Internet Blocking Observatory, said Internet access was disrupted around 10 p.m. An airport spokesman said the flights had not been canceled.
The governments of West and Central Africa are on high alert for coups following successful coups in the last 18 months in Mali and Guinea, where the military ousted President Alpha Conde last September.
The military also took power in Chad last year after President Idriss Deby was killed on the battlefield.
The 15-member Economic Community of West African States said in a statement that it was following the situation with great concern and called on the Burkina Faso army to favor dialogue with the authorities.
Burkinabe authorities arrested a dozen soldiers earlier this month on suspicion of conspiring against the government.
The arrests followed an earthquake within the military leadership in December, which some analysts saw as Kabore’s attempt to bolster his support within the military.
Rising violence in Burkina Faso caused by Islamist attacks killed more than 2,000 people last year.
Anti-government demonstrations were planned for Saturday, but were banned by the government and police intervened to disperse hundreds of people who tried to gather in Ouagadougou.
The government has suspended mobile internet service on several occasions, and a tense situation in November prompted the UN special envoy for West Africa to warn of any military takeover.