Burkina Faso soldiers have seized control of a military camp held by Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) officers, who refused to disarm in the wake of a failed coup earlier this month.
The soldiers entered the presidential guard palace barracks with little resistance, an army officer told Reuters.
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Troops were carrying out clean-up operations at the camp, searching for General Gilbert Diendere, who led the short-lived coup. However, he appeared not to be at the camp.
Gunfire was heard earlier in the evening near the presidential palaces and the RSP barracks. A military spokesman confirmed that the army opened fire on the coup supporters, though no injuries have been reported.
The takeover of the barracks came just hours after the army announced that it was giving the former presidential guard a “last chance” to “avoid a confrontation”, military spokesman Lieutenant Aziz Ouedraogo told a press conference in Ougadougou.
Al Jazeera’s Nicholas Haque reported that “General Diendere says he wants to cooperate and surrender arms,” but the “interim government says Diendere is not cooperating”.
Earlier in the day, former Foreign Affairs Minister Djibril Bassole was arrested for allegedly joining forces with Diendere in the attempted coup, amid claims the two had sought help from foreign forces.
On Monday, Bassole, who is a presidential candidate, denied allegations that he supported Diendere, calling it a “demonisation campaign” against him.
Bassole, a high-level diplomat, has long been a part of hostage negotiations in West Africa and also served as the UN special representative in Sudan’s restive Darfur region. “He is the most senior figure to be detained in relation to last week’s coup,” Haque reported.
The RSP took the president, prime minister and several cabinet members hostage earlier in September and named Diendere, the former right-hand man of ousted president Blaise Compaore, as head of state.
Disarmament efforts stalled
While Diendere quickly handed power back to the civilian transitional government, efforts to disarm his supporters have stalled.
The chief of staff said on Monday that RSP officers were refusing to participate in the process and accused Diendere of hindering the disarmament and of seeking support from foreign forces and armed groups.
In a statement on Tuesday, the chief of staff called on the local population to avoid the Ouaga 2000 district, where the camp is located, close to the presidency, and for residents of the neighbourhood to remain indoors.
In a separate statement directed at news media, the army requested that journalists stay clear of deployed troops and not reveal their position “in order not to compromise the operation under way”.
Ouagadougou’s international airport was also shut down on Tuesday.
At least 11 people were killed and 271 injured during the coup as the presidential guard crushed protests against their actions.
The government has ordered an inquiry to determine who was responsible for the coup, and the state prosecutor on Saturday froze the accounts of Diendere and 13 others suspected of links to the attempted coup.