Africa

Burkina Faso presidential guard take on mutineers

President Blaise Compaore. 1 April 2011
Image caption President Blaise Compaore is facing the biggest threat to his power in more than 20 years

Elite forces loyal to Burkina Faso's leader Blaise Compaore have for the first time intervened against rioting army mutineers.

The troops fired shots and encircled the mutineers at their military base in the second city of Bobo Dioulasso.

Their intervention comes after several days of looting and shooting by the mutineers in the commercial centre.

Disgruntled soldiers have been protesting violently across Burkina Faso since February for higher wages.

Mr Compaore responded by promising them a range of benefits, and sacked his security chiefs in April.

The mutiny, along with demonstrations by trade unions and civil society groups against the escalating cost of living, are seen as the biggest challenge to Mr Compaore's rule since he took power in a coup 24 years ago.

Restore order

Pro-Compaore forces arrived in south-western city Bobo Dioulasso after the government promised to take measures "to re-establish the authority of the state".

The mayor of Bobo Dioulasso, Salia Sanou, said part of the market had been ransacked by the mutineers.

"There is a lot of damage," he said.

The BBC's West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says shop-owners staged their own protest in Bobo Dioulasso on Thursday to demand an end to the looting.

As the pro-Compaore forces intervened, the siren of the city hall sounded to signal to residents to stay at home.

The former colonial, France, said it remained "vigilant" about the situation in Burkina Faso, where many of its nationals lived.

It said Mr Compaore's government should enter into dialogue with all parties to pave the way for reforms and to restore order.

But our correspondent says that with presidential troops intervening in Bobo Dioulasso, it is unclear whether Mr Compaore now intends to use force to end the protests.

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