Gunfire has rung out near the home of embattled President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, raising the spectre that a military coup might still be under way in Burkina Faso 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 on Sunday.
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 only public comment from the president on Sunday was a statement in support of the country’s soccer team ahead of their match.
The authorities declared an overnight curfew from 8:00 pm (2000 GMT) “until further notice” and the Education Ministry said schools would be closed Monday and Tuesday across the poor landlocked African country.
Kabore’s whereabouts remain unknown
There has been a growing frustration with the government’s handling of the insurgency.
The apparent mutiny came one day after the latest public demonstration calling for President Kabore’s resignation.
On Sunday, security forces used tear gas to disperse crowds seeking to publicly support the mutineers. Crowds also vandalised a building occupied by the president’s political party and set it on fire.
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 mutinous soldiers.
Defence Minister Aime 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.
Fight against insurgents
At the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks in the capital, however, angry soldiers shot into the air on Sunday, directing their anger over army casualties at the president.
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 militants.
Among their demands are increased manpower in the battle against militants 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 Qaeda and Daesh-linked groups.
Thousands have died in recent years from those attacks and around 1.5 million people have been displaced.