Mutinous soldiers seized control of a military base in Burkina Faso’s capital Sunday, raising fears of a coup attempt in the West African nation as gunfire rang out for hours amid growing frustration with the government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency.
The apparent mutiny came one day after the latest public demonstration calling for President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s resignation. On Sunday, security forces used tear gas to disperse crowds seeking to publicly support the mutineers and crowds vandalized a building occupied by the president’s political party.
Media has always been tightly controlled in India’s part of Muslim-majority Kashmir. Arm twisting and fear have been extensively used to intimidate the press since 1989, when rebels began fighting Indian soldiers in a bid to establish an independent Kashmir or union with Pakistan. Pakistan controls Kashmir’s other part and the two counties fiercely claim the territory in full.
The fighting has left tens of thousands of people dead. Yet, Kashmir’s diverse media flourished despite relentless pressure from Indian authorities and rebel groups.
That changed in 2019, when authorities began filing criminal cases against some journalists. Several of them have been forced to reveal their sources, while others have been physically assaulted.
“Authorities have created a systematic fear and launched a direct assault on free media. There is complete intolerance of even a single critical word,” said Anuradha Bhasin, an editor at Kashmir Times, a prominent English daily that was established in 1954.
Defense Minister Aime Barthelemy Simpore told state broadcaster RTB that a few barracks had been affected by unrest not only in the capital of Ouagadougou but in “some cities” elsewhere too. He denied, however, that the president had been detained by the mutineers, even though Kabore’s whereabouts remained unknown.
“Well, it’s a few barracks. There are not too many,” Simpore said. “In some of these barracks, the calm has already returned. So that’s it for the moment. As I said, we are monitoring the situation.”
A news headline on the state broadcaster described the gunfire as “acts of discontent by soldiers.”
“Contrary to some information, no institution of the republic has been targeted,” the headline continued.
At the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks in the capital, however, angry soldiers shot into the air Sunday, directing their anger over army casualties at the president. About 100 motorcycles later left the base, chanting in support of the mutineers, but were stopped when security forces deployed tear gas.
The soldiers put a man on the phone with The Associated Press who said that they were seeking better working conditions for Burkina Faso’s military amid the escalating fight against Islamic militants. Among their demands are increased manpower in the battle against extremists and better care for those wounded and the families of the dead. The mutinous soldiers also want the military and intelligence hierarchy replaced, he said.
There were signs Sunday that their demands were supported by many in Burkina Faso who are increasingly distressed by the attacks blamed on al-Qaida and Islamic State-linked groups. Thousands have died in recent years from those attacks and around 1.5 million people have been displaced.
“We want the military to take power,” said Salif Sawadogo as he tried to avoid tear gas on the streets of Ouagadougou. “Our democracy is not stable.”
Kabore first took office in 2015, winning the election held after longtime President Blaise Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising.
Still, Kabore has faced growing opposition since his reelection in November 2020 as the country’s Islamic extremism crisis has deepened. Last month he fired his prime minister and replaced most of the Cabinet, but critics have continued calling for his resignation.
The sound of gunfire at a military barracks sparked particular alarm after a spate of military coups in West Africa over the past 18 months, causing the regional bloc known as ECOWAS to suspend two member states simultaneously for the first time since 2012.
In August 2020, a mutiny at a Malian military barracks led to the democratically elected president being detained. He later announced his resignation on national television, and the junta leader there doesn’t want new elections for four more years.
In September 2021, Guinea’s president also was overthrown by a military junta that remains in power to this day.
A teenager convicted of two murders and a robbery has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Robbrie Thompson,19, received the sentence Friday in Pierce County Superior Court in western Washington.
Thompson, 16 at the time of the killings, was convicted of the April 2019 killing of 79-year-old Soon Ja Nam, who owned and operated the Handy Corner Store in Puyallup with her husband.
Thompson was also convicted of killing 16-year-old Franklin Thuo several days after the robbery. Authorities say Thuo took part in the robbery, and Thompson was afraid he would talk about the robbery and the killing of Nam.
Thompson, during the sentencing hearing, denied killing anyone.
But Pierce County deputy prosecutor Brian Wasankari cited evidence that said otherwise.
“This is someone who planned crimes over the course of days, deliberated about them with a confidant, considered alternate courses of action and chose those that resulted in the deaths of two people, an elderly shopkeeper who posed no physical threat, and a 16-year-old boy who wound up face down on the beach,” Wasankari said in court.
Defense attorney Paula Olsen, in seeking a sentence of 25 years, said Thompson had an abusive upbringing and has had difficulties with mental health.