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Precarious Calm Returns to Burkina Faso Capital

A precarious calm has returned to the Burkina Faso capital after violence broke out between soldiers and police. But a regional summit planned for Friday in Ouagadougou is being canceled because of the recent unrest. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

A government official told VOA the West Africa summit had to be postponed because there are no police at police stations or to ensure traffic security. Many police officers are reported to be hiding inside their homes for fear of being attacked by soldiers.

Meanwhile, dozens of soldiers gathered around Ouagadougou's municipality, but did not fire their weapons. They also accompanied several wounded soldiers to the hospital.

This came after a night of persistent gunfire in which gates at the city jail were destroyed, allowing dozens of inmates to break out. These inmates then stole motorbikes on the streets of the capital to flee.

Parts of several police stations and police vehicles were also burned, while soldiers checked people for identification papers, looking for policemen.

Casualties were reported among both soldiers and police.

The government has appealed for restraint and says it will investigate the Tuesday brawl that kicked off the unrest. In the initial violence, residents say a soldier was killed, as an out-of-uniform group of soldiers was stopped for a police search.

Clashes escalated Wednesday as soldiers armed with machine-guns left their barracks in the direction of a police station seeking revenge, and were confronted by police shooting in the air.

VOA French to Africa reporter Zoumana Wonogo was caught between the two groups.

He says soldiers took his recorder and microphone and told him it was best he stayed away. He has been told he should be thankful he was not injured and that the army has more pressing matters than trying to find and return his equipment.

Wonogo says soldiers consider policemen as what they call "little brothers."

He says it is acceptable conduct for a soldier called a "big brother" to lightly slap around a policeman, known as a "little brother," but that this type of conduct seems to have gotten out of hand.

Unlike 20 years ago, just as President Blaise Compaore came to power, Wonogo says police and soldiers are now mostly young temperamental recruits, rather than more experienced and disciplined.