ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara was ousted Thursday in a coup led by his No. 2 man to 'stop the process of neocolonial restoration' under the left-wing president, the Burkinabe national radio reported.
Witnesses in Ouagadougou said a number of people apparently were killed and automatic gunfire could be heard in the capital after nightfall.
The radio announcement, monitored in Abidjan 520 miles southwest of Ouagadougou, was preceded by several hours of military music. It said Sankara was arrested and the ruling left-wing National Revolution Council had been dissolved in the coup led by Capt. Blaise Compaore.
The report said the objective was 'to put an end as of Oct. 15 to the autocratic regime of Thomas Sankara, to stop the process of neocolonial restoration under way by this traitor of the revolution.'
It is the fourth coup in the land-locked west African nation since 1980, when President Sangoule Lamizana's corrupt 14-year-old regime was toppled in a highly popular bloodless coup.
In Ouagadougou, officials at the U.S. Embassy said gunfire erupted about 4 p.m. and continued sporadically for more than three hours. Other witnesses said it appeared an undetermined number of people were killed in an attack on Sankara's residence.
'Compaore came over the radio and accused Sankara of being tyrannical,' said Herb Miller, director of the Agency for International Development at the embassy.
The witnesses said it was unclear how the coup unfolded but that forces loyal to Compaore apparently had advanced on Sankara's residence. Sankara's whereabouts were not known, although the radio reported he had been arrested.
Compaore and Sankara, friends since childhood, attended French military academies together. As Sankara's chief aide, Compaore traveled extensively in the communist world, including visits to the Soviet Union and North Korea in 1984. He is considered farther left than Sankara, who is close to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The radio broadcast ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew and said Friday was declared a national holiday. It said the country's borders had been closed, although communications were still open to the land-locked nation of 7 million people.
The broadcast said all local governments in Burkina Faso cities were ordered removed and called upon residents to hold new elections to replace municipal leaders.
The radio accused Sankara, 37, of 'personalization of power,' 'treason against the revolution,' and 'causing social decadence and total chaos in the society.'
Compaore, Sankara and two other soldiers, Maj. Jean-Baptiste Lingani and Capt. Henri Zongo, formed the inner core of the military group that led the August 1983 coup that brought Sankara to power.
Sankara was prime minister of the former French colony, then known as Upper Volta, for the first five months of 1983. He was arrested and charged with threatening national unity and three months later his commando unit rebelled. Sankara was freed and immediately seized power.
He renamed the country Burkina Faso, which means 'the country of upright men' in the local dialect. The nation is in the drought-ridden Sahel region of west Africa and is slightly larger than Colorado.
In 1984, the government said it foiled a coup attempt and executed five soldiers and two civilians convicted of organizing the bid to overthrow Sankara.
Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest nations with an average annual per capita income of less than $200 and has long been mired in economic problems.
The country, 30 percent Moslem, also is probably the showpiece of women's rights in Africa, with women allowed to own land, borrow money and choose their method of birth control.
Throughout his regime, Sankara has preached absolute public incorruptibility, an end to factional politics and hard work. For example, Sankara sold off the government Mercedes fleet after he came to power and all officials, including the president, open their bank statements and a list of possessions to a public tribunal for examination.