OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Seven people were killed and 33 injured when government troops crushed a mutiny in a military camp in Bobo Dioulasso, 350 km from the Burkina Faso capital, officials said on Saturday.
Soldiers loyal to Burkina President Blaise Compaore were ordered to attack the mutineers on Friday to stamp out a wave of protests in Bobo Dioulasso, the country’s economic capital, witnesses said.
Jerome Bougouma, minister of territorial administration and security, said six mutinous soldiers were killed inside the camp during the fighting and a young girl, whose name and age were not given, died when she was hit by a stray bullet near the barracks.
The minister said 25 civilians and eight soldiers were injured in the fighting and 57 mutinous soldiers were arrested.
The mutiny was the latest unrest to hit the usually placid cotton- and gold-producing West African nation since Compaore extended his 24-year rule with a landslide 80.15 percent win in a November poll which rivals said was not credible.
“The government’s position is clear. It remains open to negotiations and dialogue but when it comes to such excesses, the government has the means to restore order and discipline and will do it,” Bougouma said.
The government said on Friday that the armed forces had been ordered to “forcibly disarm” the mutineeers and that operations to restore order were under way.
Poor, landlocked Burkina Faso has seen several months of protests by soldiers, students and traders complaining about pay and living conditions.
The soldiers complained initially about delays in receiving their payd, but witnesses said they then pillaged food stocks and shops in the business district and the central market.
Traders, retaliating for the government’s failure to prevent the looting, on Thursday attacked the mayor’s office, the customs office and the local offices of the state electricity company and lottery.
Analysts see the protests as a serious challenge to Compaore’s rule but say the groups behind them have yet to form a coherent national movement that could dislodge him from power.