Burkina troops surround mutineers' camp

2011-06-03 15:26
Ouagadougou - Soldiers loyal to Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore have rushed to the country's economic capital and surrounded a mutinous military camp, witnesses said on Friday.

The protests are the latest unrest to hit the usually placid cotton- and gold-producing West African nation since Compaore extended his 24-year rule with a landslide 80.15% win in a November poll which rivals said was not credible.

Soldiers from the Ouezzin Coulibaly military camp in Bobo Dioulasso have been sporadically shooting in the air and looting shops over the last few days, sparking further protests by hundreds of shopkeepers angry at the soldiers' actions.

At least 15 people have been injured in the latest bout of unrest. Poor, landlocked Burkina Faso has seen several months of protests by soldiers, students and traders complaining about pay and living conditions.

"I saw lots of soldiers come into Bobo [Dioulasso] on five pick-ups this morning," a town resident told Reuters, asking not to be named. The town in 350km south west of the capital Ouagadougou.

"On entering town, there were several bursts of gunfire, which scared people, but people applauded when we heard they had come from outside [the town]," the resident added.

Several other witnesses said the soldiers had then encircled the camp and had started arresting some soldiers.

An overnight curfew has been in place since Thursday and the town's siren was turned on Friday morning, a sign for people to stay at home.

The soldiers were initially protesting to demand delayed payments but witnesses said they pillaged food stocks and shops in the business district and the central market.

In retaliation, traders on Thursday attacked the mayor's office, the customs office and the local offices of the state electricity company and lottery.

The protests are seen by analysts as a serious challenge to Compaore's rule but the groups behind them have yet to form a coherent national movement that could push him from power.

Read more on:    blaise compaore  |  burkina faso  |  west africa

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