Unrest simmers in Burkina Faso after reported coup

Burkina Faso’s reported coup is the latest in the Sahel region, much of which is battling a growing Islamist insurgency OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT AFP

Ouagadougou (AFP) – Security forces fired tear gas to disperse angry protesters outside the French embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital on Sunday, as unrest simmered in the impoverished West African nation following a reported second coup this year.

The latest unrest began on Friday, when junior military officers announced they had toppled the country’s junta leader, sparking deep concern among world powers over the latest coup to hit the Sahel region battling a growing Islamist insurgency.

In comments late on Saturday, the junta leader, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, said he had no intention of giving up power and urged the officers to “come to their senses”.

His comments came shortly after the army general staff dismissed the coup as an “internal crisis” within the military and said dialogue was “ongoing” to remedy the situation.

The capital remained tense overnight, with demonstrators gathering on the main roads of Ouagadougou as a helicopter hovered above.

The junior officers had accused Damiba of having hidden at a military base of former colonial power France to plot a “counteroffensive,” charges that he and France denied. Damiba did not provide details of his whereabouts.

On Sunday, dozens of supporters of the new self-proclaimed putsch leader, Ibrahim Traore, gathered at the French embassy in the capital.

Security forces fired tear gas from inside the compound to disperse the protesters after they set fire to barriers outside and lobbed rocks at the structure, with some trying to scale the fence, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The French foreign ministry condemned “the violence against our embassy in the strongest terms” by “hostile demonstrators manipulated by a disinformation campaign against us.”

It marked a third incident against a France-linked building in two days. On Saturday, a fire was seen outside the French embassy and witnesses said a fire also broke out in front of the French Institute in the western city of Bobo-Dioulasso.

In announcing their putsch, the officers accused Damiba of failing to quell jihadist attacks in the country.

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