Burkina Faso coup leader vows not to surrender as army mobilizes

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Gilbert Diendere, the brigadier general at the head of Burkina Faso’s coup, on Tuesday refused to surrender power in the face of mobilization by the army on the streets of Ouagadougou.

Diendere told a press conference he remained president of the military council created by the presidential guard when it seized power last week and that the council “remains valid” as the organ governing the country.

He pledged to continue negotiating with the army, but insisted the presidential guard would defend itself if attacked.

Diendere was holding urgent talks with army chief Pingrenoma Zagre to avoid bloodshed, local radio station Omega FM reported.

Some tanks were seen on the streets of Ouagadougou. Soldiers patrolling the streets told anti-coup demonstrators to go home as an assault by the army was imminent.

An army deadline of 10 am (10:00 GMT) for the presidential guard to surrender passed without incident.

Cheriff Sy, the president of the transitional parliament, ordered the army to dissolve the presidential guard.

Its members will be put under the command of the army chief of staff, he said in a statement.

Previous plans to dissolve the presidential guard are believed to have been one of the reasons for the coup.

The presidential guard earlier released interim Prime Minister Isaac Zida, who was detained together with interim President Michel Kafando and two ministers on Wednesday. The three others had been released earlier.

Hundreds of members of the 1,200-strong presidential guard were seen going to an army camp west of the capital, after the army issued a communique saying members of the presidential guard who surrendered would not be harmed.

Diendere denied that any of his supporters had deserted.

The brigadier general and his supporters remained at a presidential guard base inside the presidential palace compound.

They were expected to surrender only if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) confirms the peace plan its mediators proposed during a visit to Burkina Faso over the weekend.

ECOWAS was holding a summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday.

The plan, proposed by the Senegalese and Beninese presidents, foresees an amnesty for the coup plotters and would allow loyalists of ousted president Blaise Compaore to contest the upcoming elections.

Compaore loyalists had been excluded from the elections. Their participation was one of the key demands of Diendere, who headed the presidential guard under Compaore.

But Burkina Faso’s political parties and civil society groups were expected to oppose the ECOWAS peace plan, which would allow the coup plotters to go unpunished.

Kafando told Radio France Internationale that he was “very reserved” about the plan and said the ECOWAS mediators had not consulted him about it.

The interim government took office after Compaore fled the country nearly a year ago, following massive protests against plans to extend his 27-year rule.

Elections were originally set for October 11. The ECOWAS mediators proposed November 22 as a new date.

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