Burkina Faso army captures elite soldiers barracks

Burkina Faso’s interim government says the army has retaken the barracks of the presidential guard that staged a coup earlier this month.

Earlier, a BBC correspondent in the capital Ouagadougou said shots and explosions were heard and smoke seen rising from the barracks.

It is not clear if there were any casualties. The international airport in the city has now reopened.

The army accuses the presidential guard of not laying down arms after the coup.

Coup leader Gen Gilbert Diendere, whose whereabouts are still unknown, had called on the elite force to surrender “to avoid a bloodbath”.

He told the AFP news agency that he feared there had been “many deaths” as the barracks were seized, as there had been families inside a building and a clinic inside the barracks.

Troops are now searching the neighbourhood for members of the elite unit who were believed to be in hiding, a soldier told AFP.

The army had surrounded the barracks all day on Tuesday and army spokesman Capt Guy Herve Ye said artillery was fired at the complex before soldiers moved in and took control.

The presidential guards are thought to be the best-trained soldiers in the country. The city appeared to be getting back to normal on Wednesday, with streets busy.

The presidential guard, who number between 1,000 and 3,000 people, are said to be the well-trained troops in the West African state.

Army sources say that before the assault, nearly 300 of them had surrendered, the BBC’s Anais Hotin reports from Ouagadougou.

Amid the standoff at the barracks, the airport was shut and residents told to stay indoors as the area was surrounded by armoured cars and military pickup trucks, our reporter says.

The presidential guard ceded power a week ago after the army opposed the coup staged the previous week.

The reinstated government says it has dissolved their elite unit, which is loyal to former President Blaise Compaore and General Diendere.

Mr Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising last year, after attempting to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.

Djibril Bassole, who served as Mr Compaore’s foreign minister, has been detained over allegations that he supported the coup, security sources said.

He has denied the allegation.

Speaking to the BBC, General Diendere had called on his men to lay down their weapons but said that some members of the presidential guard unit were now acting on their own.

About 10 people were killed in protests which followed the coup.

General Diendere was Mr Compaore’s chief of staff, but denies that he had any contact with him before he staged the coup.

He gave power back to the government following a deal brokered by regional leaders, and said the coup was a “mistake”.

The deal requires the presidential guards to disarm.

–BBC

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