OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso’s presidential guard on Wednesday detained the interim president and prime minister, plunging the West African country into uncertainty just weeks before the first elections since the ouster of ex-leader Blaise Compaore.
The detention of the nation’s transitional leaders triggered immediate street protests outside the presidential palace where the men were being held. Gunfire pierced the air as soldiers tried to disperse several hundred demonstrators, an AFP reporter saw.
It was impossible to immediately verify whether anyone had been wounded.
International condemnation was swift, with the United Nations and the African Union demanding the top officials be released immediately.
Members of Compaore’s powerful Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) “burst into the cabinet room at 2:30 pm and kidnapped the President of Burkina Faso Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida, and two ministers (Augustin Loada and Rene Bagoro),” interim parliament speaker Cheriff Sy said in a statement sent to AFP.
Broadcasts by Radio France Internationale and the private Omega radio station were cut. Omega boss Alpha Barry told France 24 television that RSP troops had interrupted programming and threatened to kill staff if they did not stop transmitting.
Protesters marching on the presidential palace in the capital Ouagadougou to condemn the hostage-taking scattered as bursts of gunfire broke out around 7:30 p.m. (1930 GMT). By 2100 GMT, the occasional shot could still be heard, the AFP correspondent at the scene said.
Crowds had gathered with whistles and vuvuzelas near the palace, shouting “Down with the RSP.”