Burkina army enters capital as coup leaders free president

2015-09-22 06:29
Burkina Faso troops on patrol. (Theo Renaut, AP)

Burkina Faso troops on patrol. (Theo Renaut, AP)

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Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso army troops have entered the capital Ouagadougou without resistance and begun negotiating the surrender of coup leaders, police said on Tuesday as France's ambassador tweeted that the interim president had been released.

"All units [of the army mobilised on Monday to march on the capital] reached Ouagadougou" overnight, Colonel Serge Alain Ouedraogo, deputy head of the Burkinabe police, told AFP.

"We must now secure the surrender of the [coup leaders] without gunfire or bloodshed," he said.

He spoke after French ambassador Gilles Thibault tweeted that interim president Michel Kafando, who had been under house arrest, was now "at the French residence".

Kafando had been arrested on Wednesday as Burkina was plunged into turmoil when soldiers from the powerful presidential guard regiment loyal to ex-leader Blaise Compaore detained him and Prime Minister Isaac Zida, himself a former deputy commander of the unit.

The RSP, an elite unit of 1 300 men, officially declared a coup the following day and installed General Gilbert Diendere, a close Compaore ally, as the country's new leader.

At least 10 people were killed and more than 100 injured in protests sparked by the coup, which came just weeks before what would have been the first elections since Compaore was ousted in a popular revolt last October after trying to extend his 27-year grip on power.

Burkina Faso's army chiefs on Monday ordered coup leaders to lay down their arms as troops began marching from the provinces towards the capital Ouagadougou.

"All the national armed forces are converging on Ouagadougou with the sole aim of disarming the presidential guard [RSP] without any bloodshed," an army statement said.

It advised members of the RSP to go to the Sangoule Lamizana military barracks west of the capital, saying they and their families would remain safe.

Peace deal

The stark warnings came as anger grew over a west African-mediated peace deal to end the latest crisis in the landlocked former French colony.

Witnesses said the military units were greeted along their march to the capital by crowds of people cheering.

French President Francois Hollande also demanded "all those involved in the putsch to immediately lay down their arms and hand over power to the legitimate authorities - or face the consequences."

And he warned that France, which still wields significant influence in its former African colonies, could also "apply sanctions to those opposing the holding of regular elections".

A similar call was also issued by the presidents of Niger and Chad, who called on the renegade soldiers to "return to the barracks" and hand back power to the transition administration they toppled on September 17.

Read more on:    gilbert diendere  |  isaac zida  |  blaise compaore  |  burkina faso  |  west africa

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