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Mutinous soldiers say military junta now controls Burkina Faso

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More than a dozen mutinous soldiers declared Monday on state television that a military junta had seized control of Burkina Faso after the democratically elected president was detained following a day of gun battles in the capital.

People gather around a bullet-riddled presidential vehicle after Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was detained at a military camp following heavy gunfire near the president's residence in Ouagadougou, the country's capital, on Monday.(Vincent Bado/Reuters)

More than a dozen mutinous soldiers declared Monday on state television that a military junta had seized control of Burkina Faso after the democratically elected president was detained following a day of gun battles in the capital.

The military coup is the third of its kind in West Africa in the last 18 months, creating upheaval in some of the countries hardest hit by Islamic extremist attacks.

Capt. Sidsore Kaber Ouedraogo said that the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration "has decided to assume its responsibilities before history." They cited the deteriorating security situation amid the deepening Islamic insurgency and the president's inability to manage the crisis.

It was not immediately known where President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was, and the junta spokesman said only that the coup had taken place "without any physical violence against those arrested, who are being held in a safe place, with respect for their dignity."

The new military regime said it had suspended Burkina Faso's constitution and dissolved the National Assembly. The country's borders also have been closed, and a curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time.

Ouedraogo said the new military leaders would work to establish a calendar "acceptable to everyone" for holding new elections, without giving further details.

In this image made from video, mutinous soldiers walk outside the Guillaume Ouedraogo military camp in Ouagadougou on Monday.(The Associated Press)

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on coup leaders to lay down their arms. He reiterated the UN's "full commitment to the preservation of the constitutional order" in Burkina Faso and support for the people in their efforts "to find solutions to the multifaceted challenges facing the country," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The UN chief said the military takeover was part of "an epidemic of coups around the world and in that region."

The televised statement capped a day of confusion over who was in control of Burkina Faso, once a bastion of stability in the region that has faced growing violence from Islamic extremists during Kaboré's time in power.

In a statement, Kaboré's political party accused the mutinous soldiers of trying to assassinate the president and another government minister and said the presidential palace in the capital of Ouagadougou remained surrounded by "heavily armed and hooded men."

Anger over insurgency, jihadist violence

Gunfire erupted early Sunday when soldiers took control of a military barracks in Ouagadougou. In response, civilians gathered in a show of support for the rebellion but were dispersed by security forces firing tear gas.

Burkina Faso has seen a series of anti-government protests as anger has mounted over the handling of the Islamic insurgency.

Groups of people celebrated again in the streets of the capital on Monday morning after reports of Kaboré's capture.

Kaboré was elected in 2015 after a popular uprising ousted longtime strongman president Blaise Compaore, who was in power for nearly three decades. Kaboré was re-elected in November 2020, but frustration has been growing at his inability to stem the spread of jihadist violence across the country.

Attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group are escalating, killing thousands and displacing more than an estimated 1.5 million people.

Kaboré is seen in Paris in November 2021. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

Takeover planned since August: soldier

The military has suffered losses since the extremist violence began in 2016. In December, more than 50 security forces were killed and nine more died in November.

Mutinous soldiers told the AP that the government was out of touch with troops and that they wanted military rule. Among their demands are more forces in the battle against extremists and better care for those wounded and the families of the dead.

About 100 military members have planned the takeover since August, according to one of the mutinous soldiers.

Regional experts say the Kaboré government was overstretched but it's unlikely the mutiny will change anything.

"Burkina Faso's army is profoundly ill-equipped and unprepared for the war it's asked to fight. It's out of its depth. Its frustration with an equally out of its depth government is understandable. Regrettably, this [rebellion] is unlikely to improve anything," said Michael Shurkin, a former political analyst at the CIA and director of global programs at 14 North Strategies, a business intelligence consultancy based in Senegal.

Signs of public support

But as protests over the weekend and on Monday showed, discontent among the general population is also growing.

"People are tired with this situation of insecurity. Every day people are killed. In Burkina, there are areas that can't be accessed. We have lost a big part of our territory," said Jean-Baptiste Ilboudou, a civilian near the military base where gunshots were heard.

Burning barricades are seen Sunday in the central avenues of Ouagadougou, where a group of young demonstrators supporting the army protested against Kaboré. (Olympia de Maismont/AFP/Getty Images)

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 mutineers.

Burkina Faso has also seen its share of coup attempts and military takeovers — though it experienced a period of relative stability under Compaore, who governed for 27 years until his ouster in 2014.

Earlier this month, authorities had arrested a group of soldiers accused of participating in a foiled coup plot. It was not immediately known whether there was any connection between those soldiers and the ones who led this coup. Military prosecutors said nine soldiers and two civilians were being held in connection with the plot.

In 1987, Compaore came to power by force. And in 2015, soldiers loyal to him attempted to overthrow the transitional government put into place after his ouster.

The army was ultimately able to put transitional authorities back in power, and they led again until Kaboré won an election and took office.

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