Shots were fired in Burkina Faso’s capital and a fire broke out at the French embassy on Saturday as self-proclaimed leader Ibrahim Traore accused President Paul-Henri Damiba of staging a counter-offensive following his apparent ouster. one day before.
The confrontation signals a deep division within the military and a worrying new chapter for Burkina Faso, where a rampant Islamist insurgency has undermined faith in the authorities and displaced nearly two million people.
“I appeal to Captain Traore and company to come to their senses and prevent a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso does not need,” Damiba said Saturday in his first statement on the crisis, posted on the official Facebook page (NASDAQ: META ) . of the presidency.
The West African country and former French protectorate has become the epicenter of violence carried out by groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State that began in neighboring Mali in 2012 and has spread to other countries south of the desert. of the Sahara.
The Burkinabe army chief of staff called on the warring factions to cease hostilities and continue talks, adding that the situation was “an internal crisis within the National Armed Forces.”
The US State Department and the UN Secretary General denounced the unrest.
Forces loyal to Traore appeared on state television and said that Damiba had taken refuge in a French army base from where he was staging the counterattack.
The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the base had never hosted Damiba, who seized power in a coup on January 24. Damiba also denied being at the base, saying the reports were a deliberate manipulation of public opinion.
However, hundreds of people who support Traore’s inauguration gathered on Saturday in front of the French embassy in protest. Anti-French protesters also gathered and stoned the French Cultural Center in the southern city of Bobo-Dioulasso.
Early in the evening a fire broke out in the embassy and several shots were heard. The French Foreign Ministry condemned the violence against its embassy.
Earlier in the day, scattered gunshots were heard, armed helicopters surrounded the presidential palace and a special forces convoy swept through central Ouagadougou after Traore announced on state television the night before that he had taken control of what would become the second coup this year.