Heavy gunfire rang out at a military base in Burkina Faso’s capital early Sunday, prompting fears that a coup attempt was underway after weeks of growing frustration with the government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency wracking the West African country.
The mutinous soldiers seized control of the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks in Ouagadougou, the capital. The government put out a statement acknowledging gunfire in army barracks but denying an army takeover of the country.
Defense Minister Aime Barthelemy Simpore told state broadcaster RTB that a few barracks had been affected not only in Ouagadougou but in “some cities elsewhere.” He denied, however, that President Roch Marc Christian Kabore had been detained by the mutinous soldiers, even though his whereabouts remained unknown.
A news headline on the state broadcaster described the gunfire as “acts of discontent by soldiers.”
“The military hierarchy is working to restore calm and serenity in the barracks,” it read. “Contrary to some information, no institution of the republic has been targeted.”
At the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks, however, angry soldiers shot into the air Sunday, directing their anger over army casualties at the president. About 100 motorcycles later left the base, chanting in support of the mutineers, but were stopped when security forces deployed tear gas.
The soldiers put a man on the phone with The Associated Press who said that they were seeking better working conditions for Burkina Faso’s military amid the escalating fight against Islamic militants. Among their demands are increased manpower in the battle against extremists, and better care for those wounded and the families of the dead. The mutinous soldiers also want the military and intelligence hierarchy replaced, he said.
The gunfire comes a day after protesters demanded his resignation at a demonstration in Ouagadougou. Kabore has faced growing opposition since his reelection in November 2020. Last month he fired his prime minister and replaced most of the Cabinet.
Violence in the once peaceful West African nation is escalating as attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group increase. Thousands have died in recent years and around 1.5 million people have been displaced.