Angry Burkina Faso soldiers go on a rampage

Looting spree in capital Ouagadougou came after an apparent mutiny by guards at the presidential palace.

    President Compaore remained at his residence on Friday despite earlier reports that he had fled [GALLO/GETTY]

    Soldiers of the presidential security regiment in Burkina Faso have gone on a looting spree in the capital Ouagadougou after an apparent mutiny reportedly over unpaid allowances, witnesses and military sources said.

    The looting on Friday followed a series of protests by soldiers that began last month in the poor west African country.

    "I was going in the direction of the Lamizana [military] camp when I heard the gunfire. I saw people rushing back towards me, so I turned around and went back home," said Pierre Tapsoba, a resident of the Gounghin neighbourhood in the west of Ouagadougou.
    "I haven't been out since. It's bad."
    A second witness said he had seen soldiers in four-wheel-drive pick-up trucks speeding in the streets and firing in the air. One taxi driver was dragged out of his car, which was taken by the soldiers.

    Military sources said Blaise Compaore, the president, had left the capital during Thursday night for his home town of Ziniare, 40km to the east, for security reasons.

    But the president was at his palace on Friday afternoon for talks with the chief of the UN mission in neighbouring Ivory Coast, the Reuters news agency reported.
    A military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some members of the presidential security regiment stationed near Compaore's palace had fired into the air late on Thursday, angry that promised benefits had not been paid.

    Soldiers from three more barracks joined the protest and the houses of some military chiefs responsible for the president's security - including that of General Dominique Diendiere, the chief of staff - were attacked.

    A government statement said the soldiers' problem was being "sorted out" and expressed regrets for any suffering during the protests.

    Colonel Moussa Cisse, a spokesman for the army, said that so far there are no casualties.

    But Youssouf Ouedraogo, a nurse at the main hospital in Ouagadougou, said several people injured by bullets had been brought into the hospital.

    Compaore, who seized power in a bloody coup 23 years ago, was re-elected by a landslide in a November vote rejected by the opposition as being rigged.

    The former army captain took power in 1987 after Thomas Sankara , the former leader, was gunned down in his office.

    Burkina Faso has been hit by unrest recently. On April 8, people took to the streets of Ouagadougou to protest soaring prices of basic foods.

    In March, students burnt government buildings in several cities to protest against a young man's death in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations of mistreatment have sparked deadly protests, killing at least six others.

    Burkina Faso is near the bottom of the UN's Human Development Index, which measures general well-being. It is ranked 161 out of 169 nations and has high rates of unemployment and illiteracy. Most people survive on subsistence agriculture.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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