Soldiers have taken to the streets and heavy gunfire has been heard near the main military camp and residential areas of Burkina Faso’s capital.
A big explosion also took place on Friday near the Rashtrapati Bhavan where the soldiers had taken a position.
Soldiers were seen on the main road leading to the presidential palace, administrative buildings and the national television center, halting broadcasts. Journalists said state television instead showed a blank screen saying “no video signal”.
Several main roads in Ouagadougou were blocked by the army. A spokesman for the military government that seized power in January was unavailable.
It is not yet clear whether this was a coup attempt, but there are signs of other power grabs that have spread across West and Central Africa in the past two years.
No public announcement has been made about the motivation behind the troop movements in Ouagadougou.
Ornella Modern, a Sahel security analyst, said there were a lot of rumors circulating on social media amid confusion about what was happening.
“Tensions are rising between society and the military, but it’s too early to say what’s going on,” Moderan told Al Jazeera. “The situation is very complicated. Burkina Faso is not facing a security situation on its own, it is affecting the entire region.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from St Louis in Senegal, West Africa, said there was an atmosphere of fear throughout the capital.
“All the roads leading to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament and the Constitutional Court are lined with soldiers. People who tried to enter the area have been asked to go back,” he said.
‘too much confusion’
Violence has erupted in Burkina Faso since Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba seized power in January, toppling the West African country’s elected leader.
“Late at night, around 3 am, there was gunfire in the capital, as the transition president, who took office in January, was at the presidential palace. Nothing is known about him or his whereabouts,” Haque said.
“There is a lot of confusion about who is in charge and who is behind what we are seeing in Ouagadougou.”
In his first statement since the January coup, Damiba, often seen in public in military fatigues and aviator sunglasses, promised to restore security.
More than 40 percent of Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is now outside government control. In recent years, violence by armed groups has spread to Ivory Coast and Togo.
The military takeover was widely celebrated by citizens fed up with former President Roch Kabore’s civilian government, which has failed to rein in militants who have killed thousands of civilians and seized large parts of the north and east in recent years.
But attacks in the impoverished West African country have worsened and the military has been weakened. The rank and file, which backed Damiba in January, are frustrated by the lack of progress, security sources say.
Center of violence
Friday’s developments came two days after Burkina Faso’s government said an attack on a military-escorted convoy of 150 vehicles carrying supplies to a northern city killed at least 11 soldiers and left 50 civilians missing.
In a statement on Tuesday, the government said Monday’s attack took place in the commune of Gaskinde in Mon province, where armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have stepped up attacks and seized territory since 2015.
As in neighboring countries, al-Qaida and ISIL-affiliated fighters have fueled the unrest, even after Damiba sacked his defense minister earlier this month and assumed the role himself.
Soldiers have blockaded areas in the north, trapping communities. Government convoys and airdrops deliver essential supplies to stranded citizens.
As of 2018, much of the country has become stateless. Further raids by gunmen, who frequently descend on rural communities on motorcycles, have forced millions of people to flee their homes. Thousands of people have been killed in the attack.
Burkina Faso has been the epicenter of violence that began in neighboring Mali in 2012 but has since spread across the arid expanse of the Sahel region south of the Sahara desert.
Also Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Guinea have all seen regime change since 2020, raising fears of a backsliding towards military rule in regions that have made democratic strides in recent decades.