Burkina Faso’s government says the army has not seized control of the country after exchanges of gunfire took place at multiple army barracks, including two in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Heavy arms fire on Sunday at Sangoule Lamizana camp, which houses the army’s general staff and a prison whose inmates include soldiers involved in a failed 2015 coup attempt, began as early as 5am (05:00 GMT), a Reuters news agency reporter said.
The reporter later saw soldiers firing into the air in the camp. A witness also reported gunfire at a military camp in Kaya, around 100km (62 miles) north of Ouagadougou.
“Information on social media would have people believe there was an army takeover,” government spokesman Alkassoum Maiga said in a statement on Sunday.
“The government, while recognising the validity of shootings in some barracks, denies this information and calls on the population to remain calm.”
A soldier stationed on Ouagadougou’s western outskirts confirmed the reports of gunfire with AFP news agency. Residents there also spoke of “increasingly heavy fire”.
Shots were heard at another military camp, Baby Sy, in the south of the capital, and at an air base near the airport, military sources said.
There was also gunfire at barracks in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya, residents there told AFP.
The gunfire came a day after clashes between police and demonstrators during protests against the authorities’ failure to stem violence ravaging the West African country.
It also follows the arrest earlier this month of numerous soldiers over a suspected plot to “destabilise institutions” in the West African country, which has a long history of coups.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar, Senegal, said that a general has presented six demands to the government on Sunday.
“One is hiring more troops to fight on the frontlines against groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) al-Qaeda,” he said.
“They also demand better care for the wounded and the families of those who lost their loved ones as well as better wages, training and forming of permanent battalions to deal with threats,” Haque said, adding that the demands did not include the resignation of the government.
“But there is an increasing pressure on the president and the government to find a way out of this deadlock.”
Haque said internet had been cut across the country on Sunday.
On Saturday, police used tear gas to disperse protesters in rallies across the country, arresting dozens. The authorities earlier in the week said they were banning the protests for security reasons.
Security sources reported that two soldiers were killed after their vehicle drove over a makeshift bomb in the north on Saturday.
In Kaya, residents told AFP protesters had stormed the ruling party headquarters.
Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group have plagued the landlocked Sahel nation since 2015, killing hundreds.
Attacks targeting civilians and soldiers have become increasingly frequent – and are largely concentrated in the country’s north and east.
The violence led by armed groups in recent years has forced approximately 1.5 million people to flee their homes, the national emergency agency says, and many have settled in the region around Kaya.
On November 27, hundreds demonstrated against the failure of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to quell the violence, sparking clashes with security forces that wounded dozens.
The November protest came days after an ambush by a suspected armed group targeting civilians and the VDP, an official self-defence force, in the northern You region left 41 people dead.
Al Jazeera’s Haque said that anger towards the president among the sections of the military has reportedly been building for months.
“In November, there was an attack in the north of the country, in Inata, where 20 soldiers were killed. There was a national outcry when it turned out that those soldiers had gone two weeks without food rations and had to hunt for food,” he said.
“That’s when they were attacked by groups linked to al-Qaeda.”
Among the soldiers arrested this month over the plot to “destabilise institutions” was Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, who had been commanding operations against armed groups in country’s badly hit western region.
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