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Police fire tear gas at protesters as anger over attacks mounts in Burkina Faso

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Police fired tear gas in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, on Saturday during a demonstration against the government’s failure to stop a wave of violence by Islamist militants. 

Opponents of President Roch Kaboré called for renewed protests in response to a recent surge of attacks in Burkina Faso, including one by al Qaeda-linked militants that killed dozens of military police officers and four civilians.

Anti-riot police on Saturday fired tear gas to prevent the demonstrators from gathering for the rally in a square in the centre of Ouagadougou, where substantial police and security forces had been deployed and all shops closed.

One of the protesters, 28-year-old Fabrice Sawadogo, said that “after seven years of failure to prevent the terrorist attacks… it is time to ask the government to go.”

The “incompetent” administration “has to admit it has failed,” he said. 

Security officers launched tear gas canisters to disperse about 100 protesters who were trying to march toward downtown Ouagadougou.

After retreating to side streets, the protesters began erecting barricades and burning tyres and trash cans.

The public’s angry response to the latest attacks has unnerved the authorities, who cut mobile internet access a week ago and refused to authorise Saturday’s demonstration.

An alliance of three groups called the November 27 Coalition had called for people to take to the streets on Saturday “in a peaceful atmosphere to denounce growing insecurity and demand the departure” of Kabore. 

But other civil society groups distanced themselves from the protests, refusing, they said, “to be complicit with those who want to push the country into chaos”. 

Security situation deteriorates

Militant groups linked to  al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group have plagued the landlocked West African  nation since 2015, killing about 2,000 people and displacing 1.4 million from their homes.

An attack on November 14 saw hundreds of fighters storm a gendarmerie camp at Inata in the north of the country, killing at least 48 military police officers and four civilians.

It was the biggest daily loss among the security forces in the history of the insurgency.

Since then, the country has seen scattered protests.

French military convoy reaches Niger

A French military convoy heading to Mali reached Niger after being delayed for more than a week by protests in Burkina Faso, the French army said on Friday.

The supply convoy of several dozen vehicles arrived in Africa at Ivory Coast last week and had to transit through Burkina Faso and Niger before arriving in central Mali.

But after entering Burkina Faso last week, the convoy was slowed by protesters at Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city, and then in Ouagadougou.

On November 19, several thousand demonstrators blocked the convoy at Kaya, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Ouagadougou.

The following day, four people suffered gunshot wounds in Kaya, in circumstances that remain unclear — French and Burkinabe soldiers fired warning shots to disperse demonstrators.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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