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Burkina Faso's Presidential Guard Arrests Leader, Announces Coup

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Weeks before a scheduled national election to choose a new government, soldiers of Burkina Faso's presidential guard say they've taken over the country. The announcement comes after members of the military arrested the interim president Wednesday.

The coup in the West African nation comes just days after a commission recommended disbanding the elite Presidential Security Regiment, which has publicly clashed with the transitional government and which is also accused of killing demonstrators during last year's anti-government rallies.

Now, the transitional government has been dissolved, the military unit said in a TV address by Lieutenant Colonel Mamadou Bamba, who said they had put an end to "the deviant regime of transition."

Coup leaders say there was deep frustration with the leadership. Cherif Sy, who heads the ousted transitional parliament, told Radio France International that he was now in charge.

The public declaration since soldiers seized interim President Michel Kafando and the prime minister, himself a soldier, at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The move was condemned by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the White House, the African Union, the regional West African community, ECOWAS, and the former colonial power, France.

From Accra, the capital of neighboring Ghana, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that the latest coup is just 10 months after an uprising in Burkina Faso ousted the President Blaise Compaore, and that the counter-coup appears to have been staged by soldiers loyal to him. It also comes barely a month ahead of elections ostensibly aimed at restoring democratic rule.

The group that seized power, calling itself the National Council for Democracy, says it will be led by Gen. Gilbert Diendere, who Agence France-Presse identifies as Compaore's former chief-of-staff.

Ofeibea reports for All Things Considered: "Demonstrators were quick to protest in the capital, Ouagadougou where marches were met with force and shots by presidential guards patrolling the streets."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.