Burkina Faso Coup Leader Hands Himself In

Investigation is needed which would be international in scope

Ouagadougou (AFP) - The leader of Burkina Faso's short-lived coup was in police custody on Thursday after handing himself in.

General Gilbert Diendere, who had said several times that he was willing to face justice following the September 17 putsch, was being held at the Paspanga police base near the centre of the capital Ouagadougou.

"General Diendere and his accomplices will answer for all the offences of which they are accused," the country's interim government said in a statement, adding that a "commission of inquiry" was already "hard at work" investigating the coup.

A military source said military justice would deal with Diendere.

The general, who is the former chief of staff to ousted president Blaise Compaore, had taken refuge at the residence of the Vatican's ambassador on Tuesday, just prior to an army raid on the barracks of his elite military regiment which led the coup.

Crack troops from the presidential guard (RSP), loyal to Compaore, declared a coup on September 17, a day after detaining interim president Michel Kafando and prime minister Isaac Zida.

They complained that pro-Compaore candidates were being barred from running in forthcoming elections.

After nearly a week of international pressure they agreed to a peace deal brokered by the ECOWAS west African regional bloc under which the interim leadership would return, and the coup plotters would stand down with their safety and that of their families guaranteed.

But tensions soared on Tuesday as some members of the RSP refused to disarm, sparking a standoff with the army at the regiment's barracks that ended with the coup plotters abandoning their base after sustaining heavy weapons fire.

Diendere had urged his men to step down to "avoid a bloodbath" after taking refuge at the Vatican ambassador's residence.

- 'Defence of democracy' -

Guy-Herve Kam of Balai Citoyen ("Civic Croom"), a prominent civil society group that helped sweep Compaore from power in mass protests last year, urged authorities to not only investigate crimes committed during the coup, "but all those in which the general (Diendere) could be implicated".

"This opens the way for elections to take us out of the transition," Kam added. "The resistance (to the coup) has shown a collective drive for the defence of democracy in Burkina."

Diendere is deeply unpopular in the capital, and news of his arrest was cheered on the streets.

"I'm very happy," said Omar, a 24-year-old vendor. "Now we need to bring him to Revolution Square so the families of the victims can have a word with him."

Wednesday had seen the arrest of six officers who took part in the coup while lieutenant-colonel Mamadou Bamba, who had read the coup plotters' statements on television, handed himself over to police on Thursday.

Earlier, a senior army source told AFP a majority of RSP troops had joined loyalist units after their regiment was disbanded.

More than 800 men of the RSP's 1,300-strong force have taken up new postings, a source in the army high command said, adding the remainder were being sought.

The regiment was dissolved last week as part of the peace deal and all its members assigned to other units.

Those who have yet to join loyalist forces have until Friday to show up at their new postings -- those failing to do so "will be considered deserters", a military source said.

Official sources say 11 people were killed and 271 injured in protests triggered by the coup, which came just weeks before the first elections scheduled to be held since Compaore was ousted last October after 27 years of iron-fisted rule.

The first round of voting was to have taken place on October 11, although officials have said there will be a delay of several weeks due to the crisis.

With the coup seemingly having fizzled out and with life having returned virtually to normal in the capital, despite a night-time curfew, Kafando felt able to fly out to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Wednesday, Kafando said he believed the country had "turned the page" on the unrest while promising to turn his attention to fixing an election date in consultation with all parties concerned.

( AFP )
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