OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Burkina Faso’s army took over the barracks of the presidential guard that carried out a short-lived coup this month, barraging them with gunfire Tuesday after they refused to disarm, the government said.
The government confirmed the takeover on national TV, saying they liberated all of the places formerly occupied by the presidential guard.
Burkina Faso’s army appeared to have prepared for the offensive all day, earlier surrounding the barracks, and the nearby presidential palace and national radio in the capital, Ouagadougou. Artillery was fired at the barracks of the elite presidential guard before they took control, said army spokesman Capt. Guy Herve Ye. The government did not immediately give a casualty toll.
Gen. Gilbert Diendere, who led the coup earlier this month but handed power back last week, called on his followers to lay down arms.
“I call on all the elements to lower their arms and to rejoin the ranks of the army to avoid unnecessary bloodshed,” Diendere said in an interview with local Radio Omega after the army attacked.
The elite presidential guard staged the coup because it was unhappy that supporters of former President Blaise Compaore, ousted in a popular uprising in October, couldn’t run in elections. The presidential guard arrested interim President Michel Kafando and interim Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida on Sept. 16. Diendere later took power, but stepped down after pressure from the West African regional bloc, Burkina Faso’s military and demonstrating citizens. Kafando and Zida were reinstalled on Sept. 23.
Under a peace deal brokered last week, members of the presidential guard are supposed to disarm.
Diendere told the radio station that some 100 soldiers, a captain and an interim leader had left the presidential guard and accepted disarmament. But the presidential guard, which initially had around 1,300 members, said Tuesday that it will not give up its weapons under “shameful and violent” conditions.
“Any attempt of aggression against our regiment will result in a clear, clean and decisive response as always,” the presidential guard said.
In another show of force, the army arrested Djibril Bassole, a former high-ranking minister accused of collaborating with the mutinous soldiers, said Ye.
He is accused of supporting Diendere. The two are also accused of seeking help from foreign forces.
Bassole has denied the allegations, calling it a “demonization campaign” against him. Bassole, a high-level diplomat, served under Compaore, who ruled Burkina Faso for nearly 30 years.
Bassole is among 14 people whose assets have been frozen following the coup.
Authorities said that presidential guard members found to have played significant roles in the coup earlier this month will face trial, while others will be reintegrated into the army.
Burkina Faso’s vote was scheduled for Oct. 11 but interim Prime Minister Zida has said elections have been postponed for several weeks.
Associated Press writer Baba Ahmed in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.
This story was corrected to show that the coup happened earlier this month, not last week.