Major military deployment in Burkina Faso’s capital amid speculation of a riot

Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, was the scene Friday of an explosion and heavy gunfire, which was followed by a major military deployment and the suspension of public television broadcasts, sparking speculation of a possible mutiny or military uprising.

Government sources quoted by the British television network BBC have spoken of a mutiny and indicated that the authorities are negotiating with those involved. For his part, a member of the special forces told the Burkinabe portal Infowakat that those mobilized want “a real warlord to liberate the country”.

The mobilization of the military took place after an explosion in the vicinity of the airport of the capital, while witnesses quoted by the magazine ‘Jeune Afrique’ indicated that shots were also fired near the Presidential Palace and the Baba Sy base, headquarters of the transitional president, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba.

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“The head of state is well and is in Ouagadougou,” assured a person close to the junta leader. Government spokesman Lionel Bilgo denied having been arrested and stressed that Prime Minister Albert Ouédraogo is not being held by the military either, as reported by the news portal Le Faso.

In this context, the headquarters of the public television channel has been surrounded, after which it has suspended broadcasts. Although the broadcasts returned hours later with a general content not related to current affairs, they were cut again shortly after, without the reasons being known.

Confusion over the situation has been heightened by the installation of numerous military-run barricades in various parts of the city, including around the Presidential Palace, while a group of protesters have taken to the streets of Ouagadougou to demand Damiba’s resignation and the release of Emmanuel Zoungrana, suspected of planning an attempted coup prior to the uprising that lifted Damiba to power.

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For its part, the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso has advised its citizens to “limit their movements” and “stay informed through local media,” according to a security alert posted on its website.

The country has been controlled since January by a military junta following a coup staged by Damiba against the then president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, after a mutiny by military personnel protesting insecurity and lack of means to deal with jihadism.

Burkina Faso has generally experienced a significant increase in insecurity since 2015, with attacks by both Al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates, leading to a wave of internally displaced persons and refugees to other countries in the region.

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