Burkina coup plotters abandon barracks after army assault
OUAGADOUGOU — Soldiers who staged a short-lived coup in Burkina Faso abandoned their barracks in the capital late on Tuesday after a tense stand-off with loyalist troops, the military said, as authorities battled to regain control of the crisis-hit country.
Coup leader General Gilbert Diendere said he feared there had been many deaths from the assault on the sprawling military base, which is next to the presidential palace in Ouagadougou.
The army "fired artillery", Diendere said, adding that there had been families and a clinic inside the barracks.
"There must have been many deaths and injuries." It was not immediately clear how many people died.
The army launched an assault on the barracks of the elite presidential guard (RSP) after the putschists, who support deposed leader Blaise Compaore, refused to give up their weapons in line with a peace deal mediated by regional powers.
After the army fired on the barracks with heavy weapons, and as their leader pleaded with his men to lay down their arms to "avoid a bloodbath," the crack troops behind the September 17 coup stood down, the military said.
"The situation is calm. An assault was carried out; there was no confrontation," said General Pingrenoma Zagre, the Burkinabe army's chief of staff.
Military sources said troops were continuing to comb the barracks into the night.
The government issued a statement hailing the "liberation" of RSP camps by "our valiant defence and security forces," urging the public to now work together to boost national unity.
The military had warned earlier that it was giving the coup plotters "a last chance to surrender."
Heavy weapons fire sent dust rising into the sky above the barracks.
Diendere had urged his men to stand down, with Omega radio quoting him as saying: "I am asking elements of the RSP to lay down their arms to avoid a bloodbath."
In an interview, the general said he was ready to face justice, saying he was "at the disposal of my country's judiciary."
The coup leader added that he was no longer at the barracks, without giving details.
Ouagadougou airport was closed as troops locked down the area around the barracks of the RSP, ratcheting up the pressure on them to stand down.
Troops had deployed around the barracks with armoured cars and pickup trucks on Tuesday morning as tensions escalated, with soldiers equipped with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades stationed at several intersections. — AFP