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Burkina Faso army seizes gov't in a coup, detains president

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Burkina Faso's army said Monday that it has seized control of the country after disposing of President Roch Marc Kabore.

Appearing on state television while flanked by 13 men in camouflage, Capt. Sidsore Kaber Ouedraogo said Kabore had been ousted, the constitution suspended, the national assembly dissolved and the borders closed.

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"Today's events indeed herald a new era for Burkina Faso," he said. "They are an opportunity for all the people of Burkina Faso to heal their wounds, to rebuild their cohesion and to celebrate what has always made us who we are -- namely integrity."

The operation was conducted without bloodshed or violence, he said, the military will return to "constitutional order" within a reasonable timeframe.

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The Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration "also reassures the partners and friends of Burkina Faso of our country's firm determination to continue to respect its international commitment, particularly with regard to human rights," he said.

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The whereabouts of Kabore were unknown but Ouedraogo said those arrested during the seizure were being held "in a safe place with respect to their dignity."

Troops detained Kabore after gunfire was heard in military camps in the West African country the day before when the government denied that a coup attempt had occurred.

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Mutinous soldiers detained Kabore after heavy gunfire was reported around his official residence in the capital Ouagadougou.

The Daily Post in Nigeria reported that armored vehicles in Kabore's fleet were riddled with bullet holes and blood stains.

Before the attack, some government soldiers had complained about a lack of resources in the fight against jihadist groups and called for new military leadership.

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"In view of the continuous deterioration of the security situation, which threatens the very foundations of our nation, the manifest inability of Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kabore to unite the Burkinabes to deal effectively with the situation and following the exasperation of the various social strata of the nation the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, MPSR, has decided to assume its responsibilities before history," Ouedraogo in his Monday address.

African Union Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement that the organization "strongly condemns the attempted coup" and called on the army to stick to its job of securing the nation's security.

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Mahamat also demanded the army to "ensure the physical integrity" of Kabore as well as those of his government who were detained.

The Economic Community of West African States, a regional political and economic union of 15 countries, said it was concerned about the Burkina Faso situation and confirmed its support for Kabore as president.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also expressed concern over the safety of Kabore with spokesman Stephane Dujarric reading a prepared statement to reporters during a noon briefing that called on the military to lay down their weapons.

"The secretary general strongly condemns any attempt to take over a government by the force of arms," Dujarric said, adding Guterres urges all involved to exercise restraint and begin to dialogue.

In Washington, D.C., Secretary of State spokesman Ned Price said they are "deeply concerned" over the situation and are aware the military has dissolved Burkina Faso's government and suspended its constitution.

"We condemn these acts and call on those responsible to de-escalate the situation," Price said in a statement. "We acknowledge the tremendous stress on Burkinabe society and security forces posed by [the Islamic State] and [Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin] but urge military officers to step back, return to their barracks and address their concerns through dialogue."

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Meanwhile, the French embassy in Ouagadougou confirmed that a coup had occurred and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew had been put in place.

Two Air France flights scheduled for Monday night were canceled as were French schools for Tuesday, it said.

The reported coup is the third attempt within a year in Burkina Faso, which borders several African nations -- Niger, Nigeria, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

On Sunday, the Burkina Faso government ended phone and Internet access, leaving its residents in a communications blackout, and assured citizens that there was no coup attempt. Kabore's arrest on Monday shattered any notion of security in the government quarter.

Demonstrators had already won numerous changes in the past few months, including a new cabinet.

Since Kabore took office in 2015, violence has grown worse in the country as opponents linked to terrorist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State increased attacks. More than 2,000 people have died in the violence and at least 1.4 million civilians have been driven from their homes.

Burkina Faso has a population of about 21 million people.

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