By Aurore Bonny
DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) - Burkina Faso’s military said on Saturday that the toppled former president of the West African nation had taken refuge in a military camp in the capital, planning to launch a counter-offensive against the junta.
Speaking on state television, the army officers said Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba, the transitional president ousted on Friday, was planning to cause trouble for the defense and security forces from the base in Ouagadougou.
Damiba, who had been in power since January after staging a coup of his own, “is said to have taken refuge in the French military base at Kamboinsin,” where “he plans to launch a counter-offensive,” said the junta, now led by Capt. Ibrahim Traore.
“This follows our firm will to go to other partners ready to help us in the fight against terrorism,” said Traore.
He invited the population “not to fall into this trap” in the fight to restore the territorial integrity of the country, long plagued by the threat of terrorism.
Damiba was removed from power after conflicting reports early on Friday accompanied by gunfire in Ouagadougou which has continued into Saturday.
He had taken power in January from former elected President Roch Marc Kabore, blaming him for failing to secure the country in the grip of terrorism.
Similar accusations have been leveled against Damiba, whom his successors say was unable to tackle insecurity and was serving the interests of former colonizer France.
France on Saturday denied any involvement of its military in the latest developments.
“The camp where the French forces are located has never welcomed Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, nor has our embassy,” the French Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement.
The new junta also dissolved the constitution and suspended the government and all political and civil society activities. It has also ordered the closure of land and air borders until further notice.
It later decided to lift the curfew for Saturday evening, calling on the public to "a patriotic vigil, a total and constant mobilization against obscurantist forces who undermine the efforts against the common fight for the restoration of the integrity," of the country.
The army’s general staff acknowledged on Saturday that the military was currently going through a serious political-military crisis along with on the security crisis affecting the population.
“Following an internal crisis within the National Armed Forces, some units have taken control of certain streets in the city of Ouagadougou, demanding in a statement the departure of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba,” it said.
The African Union (AU), EU, and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have condemned the second coup in less than a year in a country that has experienced several since its independence.
It is "inappropriate," ECOWAS said.
In a statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also “strongly” condemned “any attempt to seize power by force of arms” in Burkina Faso.
He called on all actors to refrain from violence and to give precedence to dialogue, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.