11:17 pm
20 October 2016

Burkina Faso junta frees interim president after coup

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Burkina Faso’s military on Friday released the country’s interim president who was detained during a coup that dissolved his government and soldiers blocked protesters from gathering in the West African nation’s capital.

The African Union, meanwhile, suspended Burkina Faso after the military power grab, and the presidents of Senegal and Benin began mediation efforts to restore constitutional rule.

This week’s coup was led by members of a presidential guard still loyal to ex-President Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising last October after he angered people by attempting to prolong his 27-year rule.

While protesters were thwarted in the capital of Ouagadougou, unrest flared in other regions of the country, where some burned the homes of Compaore associates. The country’s airport and land borders were opened, a day after they were closed by the new military rulers.

The junta said Friday that interim President Michel Kafando had been freed from military custody but the prime minister remained under house arrest. They had been chosen to lead the political transition after Compaore’s resignation until an election could be held. The vote was set for Oct. 11, though the new military leader now says that is too soon.

The presidential guard detained Kafando and the prime minister on Wednesday, and declared early Thursday that the transitional government had been dissolved.

“We are considering meeting the different political parties very soon,” he said Friday.

This week’s coup has been met with sharp international criticism. U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Washington would “review our foreign assistance to Burkina Faso in light of evolving events.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the self-interested actions of a few are threatening the historic opportunity that the people of Burkina Faso have to cast their ballots and build a new future for the country,” Rice said.

Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and is an important ally of France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa.

The coup sparked protests in the streets of the capital, and the presidential guard opened fire with live ammunition, witnesses said Wednesday. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least six victims at a morgue Thursday.