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Burkina Faso denies army takeover after mutiny

Security forces fire tear gas at people who gathered at Nation Square to support military in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 23, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Soldiers have mutinied at several barracks in Burkina Faso to demand the sacking of military chiefs and more resources to fight al-Qaeda and Daesh-linked militants operating across the country.

Heavy gunfire rang out for hours from multiple barracks in the capital Ouagadougou and at bases in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya in the early hours of Sunday. A group of angry demonstrators in Ouagadougou also burned and ransacked the headquarters of President Roch Kabore’s People's Movement for Progress (MPP) party.

Burkina Faso’s government confirmed gunfire at some military camps but denied reports that the army had seized power or detained President Kabore. Defense Minister General Bathelemy Simpore said the reasons for the gunfire were still unclear. “The head of state has not been detained; no institution of the country has been threatened,” Simpore said, while speaking on national television. “For now, we don’t know their motives or what they are demanding. We are trying to get in contact with them.”

But a spokesperson for the mutineers later in the day said the troops were demanding "appropriate" resources and training for the army in its fight against militants linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh Takfiri terrorists and the resignation of the army and intelligence chiefs. The disaffected soldiers also wanted top generals to be "replaced," better care for injured troops and more support for the families of soldiers killed in battle, the spokesman for the mutinous troops said in an anonymous recording.

Governments in West and Central Africa are on high alert for coups after successful putsches over the past 18 months in Mali and Guinea. The military also took over in Chad last year after President Idriss Deby died on battlefield.

Burkinabe authorities arrested a dozen soldiers earlier this month on suspicion of conspiring against the government. The arrests followed a shake-up within the army's leadership in December. Rising violence in Burkina Faso driven by militant attacks killed over 2,000 people last year.

The developments are the latest sign of growing discontent with President Kabore’s government over its failure to quell the militancy that has devastated Burkina Faso since 2015.

Anti-French sentiment is also on the rise in West Africa as the security situation deteriorates despite the presence of French troops in the troubled region. France recently deployed more troops in the Sahel despite opposition to its presence there.

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