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Burkina Faso Urges Calm After Attack   10/02 11:13

   

   OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) -- Burkina Faso's new junta leadership called 
for an end to the unrest Sunday, a day after angry protesters attacked the 
French Embassy and other buildings following the West African nation's second 
coup this year.

   In a statement broadcast on state television, junta spokesman Capt. 
Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho called on people to "desist from any act of 
violence and vandalism" especially those against the French Embassy or the 
French military base.

   Anti-French sentiment rose sharply after the new junta alleged that interim 
president Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who was ousted by the military 
on Friday, was sheltering at a French military base. France vehemently denied 
the allegation, but soon protesters with torches thronged the perimeter of the 
French Embassy in Ouagadougou, the capital.

   Damiba's whereabouts were still unknown Sunday but an online statement 
attributed to him called on new coup leader Capt. Ibrahim Traore and his 
followers "to come to their senses to avoid a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso 
does not need."

   Saturday's violence was condemned by the French Foreign Ministry, which 
denied any involvement in the rapidly developing events. Spokeswoman 
Anne-Claire Legendre said French Institutes in Ouagadougou and the country's 
second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso, had also been targeted and urged all 
French citizens to be very cautious.

   "The situation is very volatile in Burkina Faso," she told The Associated 
Press on Sunday. "There have been serious violations of the security of our 
diplomatic presence."

   Religious leaders on Sunday said they were attempting to mediate the 
country's political crisis and that Damiba had "proposed his own resignation in 
order to avoid clashes." However, they said he demanded guarantees for his 
safety and those who support him in the armed forces.

   Damiba also said the new junta must respect the commitments already made to 
the regional bloc ECOWAS, which include an election by July 2024, the religious 
leaders said.

   There was no independent corroboration of the alleged negotiations.

   The events unfolding in Burkina Faso have deepened fears that the political 
chaos will divert attention from the country's unabated Islamic insurgency, a 
crisis that has forced 2 million people from their homes and left thousands 
dead in recent years.

   Damiba came to power in January promising to secure the country from jihadi 
violence. However, the situation only deteriorated as jihadis imposed blockades 
on towns and have intensified attacks. Last week, at least 11 soldiers were 
killed and 50 civilians went missing after a supply convoy was attacked by 
gunmen in Gaskinde commune in the Sahel. The group of officers led by Traore 
said Friday that Damiba had failed and was being removed.

   To some in Burkina Faso's military, Damiba also was seen as too cozy with 
former colonizer France, which maintains a military presence in Africa's Sahel 
region to help countries fight Islamic extremists.

   Some who support the new coup leader, Traore, have called on Burkina Faso's 
government to seek Russian support instead. Outside the state broadcaster on 
Sunday, supporters of Traore were seen cheering and waving Russian flags.

   In neighboring Mali, the coup leader has invited Russian mercenaries from 
the Wagner Group to help with security, a move than has drawn global 
condemnation and accusations of human rights abuses.

   Conflict analysts say Damiba was probably too optimistic about what he could 
achieve in the short term but that a change at the top didn't mean that the 
country's security situation would improve.

   "The problems are too profound and the crisis is deeply rooted," said Heni 
Nsaibia, a senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data 
Project. "It is hard to imagine that this disunity among the armed forces and 
the ongoing turmoil will help resolve an already extremely volatile situation."

   He expected that "militant groups will most likely continue to exploit" the 
country's political disarray.

   As uncertainty prevailed, the international community widely condemned the 
ouster of Damiba, who himself overthrew the country's democratically elected 
president in January.

   U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States "is deeply 
concerned by events in Burkina Faso."

   "We call on those responsible to de-escalate the situation, prevent harm to 
citizens and soldiers, and return to a constitutional order," he said.

   The African Union and the West African region bloc known as ECOWAS also 
sharply criticized the developments, urging the military to "avoid escalation 
and in all circumstances to protect civilians."

 
 
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