Gunfire erupts near Burkina Faso President as soldiers demand more resources

Gunfire erupts near Burkina Faso President as soldiers demand more resources

Gunfire has been heard near the home of Burkina Faso's president after soldiers staged mutinies at several barracks to demand the sacking of the country's top brass and more resources for the fight against Islamist insurgents.

Residents also reported seeing a helicopter above the private residence of President Roch Marc Kabore in Ouagadougou on Sunday night.

It followed a gunfire at several army bases earlier in the day, sparking fears that another coup is coming in a volatile West African country prone to military takeovers.

Meanwhile, demonstrators protesting over the government handling of the jihadist threat set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party.

The government quickly denied rumours of a putsch, and a list of demands made by the rebellious troops no mention of trying to oust Kabore, while emphasising the need for a better anti-jihadist strategy.

A soldier from Sangoule Lamizana base in Ouagadougou said in a voice recording received by Agence France-Presse that they wanted adequate resources for the battle against Islamist extremists.

The disaffected soldiers wanted top generals to be replaced with better care for wounded troops and more support for the families of soldiers killed in battle, a spokesman for the mutinous troops added in the anonymous recording.

The education ministry said schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday across the landlocked country, and the authorities declared an overnight curfew from 8 pm on Sunday until further notice.

The unrest comes just over a week after 12 people, including a senior army officer, were arrested on suspicion of planning to disrupt Burkina's institutions.

It comes a day after police used tear gas to disperse banned rallies, arresting dozens.

Residents in the Gounghin district, where the Sangoule Lamizana base is located, reported seeing soldiers firing in the air and sealing off the area around the barracks.

Shots were also heard at the Baby Sy barracks in the south of the capital, as well as at an airbase near the airport, which was surrounded by soldiers wearing balaclavas, witnesses said.

There were also gunfires at bases in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya, residents told AFP, and mobile internet services were cut.

The government tried to restore control.

Information on social media would have people believe there was an army takeover, government spokesman Alkassoum Maiga said in a statement. The government denies this information and calls for the public to remain calm, even though acknowledging that there was gunfire in some barracks. The defence minister, General Barthelemy Simpore, said on nationwide TV that none of the republic's institutions have been troubled by the revolt.

He said there were localised, limited incidents in a few barracks and he was investigating.

An AFP correspondent reported that the police fired teargas to break up a rally by around 100 people who gathered at a square in central Ouagadougou to show support for the mutiny.

Sangoule Lamizana camp houses a military prison where General Gilbert Diendere a former right-hand man to deposed president Blaise Compaore is serving a 20 year term for an attempted coup in 2015.

He is also on trial for his alleged part in the 1987 assassination of the country's revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, during a putsch that brought Compaore to power.

Compaore, overthrown in 2014 by a popular uprising, fled to Ivory Coast and is being tried in absentia for the murder.

The turbulence comes with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighbour Mali in 2015, overwhelming Burkina's poorly trained and badly equipped armed forces.

Around 2,000 people have died, according to an AFP tally, while around 1.5 million people are internally displaced, according to the national emergency agency Conasur.

Anger at Kabore's failure to stem the bloodshed has escalated, spilling over into clashes with the security forces. On 27 November, hundreds of people turned out to protest.

Among the soldiers arrested this month over the plot to destabilise institutions was Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, who had been commanding anti-jihadist operations in the former French colony that had badly hit the western region.

In a statement, the Economic Community of West African StatesWest African States Ecowas said it was very concerned with the situation and expressed its solidarity with Kabore, the government and its people.