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Heavy Gunfire in Burkina Faso Capital, Soldiers on Streets


Burkina Faso soldiers are seen deployed in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2022.
Burkina Faso soldiers are seen deployed in Ouagadougou on September 30, 2022.
Troops in Burkina Faso have blocked streets in the capital, and state TV has stopped broadcasting after reports of heavy gunfire near the military camp where the country’s junta leader is based. The signs point to a possible coup, which could be the second this year after a military takeover in January.

At around 4:30 a.m. Friday morning, gunfire and a loud explosion were reported in Ouagadougou, in the vicinity of Camp Baba Sy, where the country’s president, Paul-Henri Damiba, is based. Witnesses said gunfire could also be heard coming from Kosyam, where the presidential palace is located.

Reports also said soldiers had blockaded the center of the city, an area where many government buildings are located as well as the national broadcaster’s TV station and the French embassy.

Just outside the military blockade in the center of town on Boulevard Charles de Gaulle, the military are blocking the road. Many are wearing facemasks and are reluctant to talk. Local police could not tell VOA what's happening. People are still going about their daily business, although they’re being turned away from the area where many of the government buildings are by the soldiers. At the moment the situation is still unclear.

In January, Lieutenant Colonel Damiba came to power in a military coup that saw the former president Roch Kabore arrested by members of the armed forces. National broadcaster RTB went offline for much of the day, before soldiers appeared on television to announce they had taken power.

This morning, RTB was once again off air for several hours, although a story about cotton farming aired around 9 a.m. local time before the channel went off air again.

Just after 12 p.m. local time, the president's office released a statement on Facebook, part of which said, "In view of the confused situation created as a result of a movement of mood by some elements of the national armed forces this Friday ... Negotiations are underway to bring back calm and serenity."

The U.S. Embassy has warned Americans to limit their movements and stay informed of local media reports.

The events of this morning come after rising frustration with the government’s inability to deal with insecurity caused by militant groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State.

On Monday, a convoy carrying food and basic supplies to the northern town of Djibo, which has been under siege by militants for years, was ambushed. Eleven soldiers were killed, and more than 50 civilians were said to be missing.

The incident raised serious concerns about the government, with many citizens expressing their fears and doubts on social media.

“The military seized power in Burkina Faso in January and justified their coup by the failure of the previous democratic government to tackle the jihadist violence, but by that very benchmark, this military junta has proved unable to seriously reduce the level of violence and frustration has continued," said Paul Melly, an analyst for Chatham House, a London-based think tank. "Burkinabe feel afraid about the continuing spread of jihadist violence.”

One small business owner who declined to give his name said that in any case, the way they govern is no good. There are the jihadists who kill a lot of people.

The next few hours will likely be crucial in determining if Damiba has been deposed after just nine months in power.