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Mediators announce deal to end Burkina coup crisis, questions remain

Publisher: Reuters
Story date: 20/09/2015
Language: English

Regional mediators seeking to peacefully roll back a military coup in Burkina Faso said they negotiated a draft deal on Sunday to end the crisis though they failed to secure the immediate restoration of civilian rule.

The announcement by Senegal's President Macky Sall at a news conference came after a day fraught with tensions that began with an attack by pro-coup demonstrators and elite presidential guard soldiers on the hotel hosting the talks.

It remained to be seen whether the unsigned agreement would be accepted by either the coup leaders, who took the interim president, prime minister and several ministers hostage on Wednesday, or their opponents in a transitional government.

A night-time curfew remained in place on Sunday.

The coup came weeks before an Oct. 11 vote meant to mark a return to democracy after demonstrators toppled President Blaise Compaore last year as he attempted to extend his 27-year rule.

The uprising became a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa at a time when veteran rulers from Rwanda to Congo Republic are seeking to scrap term limits.

Under the proposal announced by Sall, who is the current chairman of the West African block ECOWAS, the date of the polls could be pushed back to as late as Nov. 22.

In exchange for returning power to the civilian transitional authority, former Compaore right-hand man General Gilbert Diendere and his presidential guard would receive an amnesty for acts committed during the putsch.

President Michel Kafando would be restored as head of the transitional government, though the body's military members would be excluded, a move likely aimed at eliminating Prime Minister Isaac Zida, seen as Diendere's chief opponent.

The deal also calls for the reinstatement of candidates with close links to Compaore, who were excluded from running in the polls under a law passed by the transitional authorities.

France issues 'strong warning' not to block mediation in Burkina Faso
Their exclusion from the election along with concerns that the transitional government was preparing to disband the presidential guard were among justifications given by Diendere for staging the coup.


Sall, who spent two days in the capital Ouagadougou on the mediation mission, said he planned to submit the proposal to a summit of heads of state in Nigeria on Tuesday.

Before he announced the plan, Francois Hollande, president of Burkina Faso's former colonial master France, issued a warning against rejecting the mediation.

"There are discussions taking place as we speak and France backs the African mediations. I address a strong warning to those who would be tempted to oppose them", he said during a state visit to Morocco.

However, there were immediate indications that the ECOWAS proposal might struggle to gain support among the rival Burkinabe groups.

In his own proposal submitted to mediators late on Saturday and seen by Reuters, Diendere put his own name forward to head a new post-coup transition.

Many opposition and civil society members present as the various points of the ECOWAS-mediated deal were announced appeared visibly shocked by the document's content.

"It's a draft. That's all it is," said opposition politician Benewende Sankara.

Roch Marc Christian Kabore, another leading opposition figure, said he had not been shown the content of the deal before it was announced. Guy-Herve Kam, spokesman for the civil society group Balai Citoyen (Citizen's Broom) which helped lead the uprising against Compaore, was seen in tears.

Balai Citoyen members were among those attacked by masked presidential guard soldiers who burst into the Leico Hotel earlier in the day, brandishing assault rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Meanwhile, anti-coup protests continued for a fourth day on Sunday as demonstrators erected barricades in neighborhoods across Ouagadougou, braving the presidential guard's attempts to break up gatherings of protesters.

"Our country calls us, comrades! We must paralyze Ouagadougou by any means," Smockey Bambara, one of Balai Citoyen's leaders, wrote in a Facebook post.

A Reuters witness saw presidential guard soldiers set fire to a pile of motor scooters on the street as part of efforts to limit the mobility of demonstrators.

Businesses remained closed and sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the capital.

The junta has so far failed to gain nationwide traction for its coup, and outside the capital on Sunday, including in the second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso, people opposed to the putsch demonstrated without the interference of security forces.

(Additional reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Ros Russell and Jonathan Oatis)

At least five killed in suicide bomb attack in northern Cameroon

Publisher: Reuters
Story date: 20/09/2015
Language: English


At least five people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on Sunday in the northern Cameroon town of Mora, military sources said, in what appeared to be the latest cross-border attack by Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamist militant group.

The dead included a police officer, two civilians and the two female suicide bombers, who detonated themselves at around 8 a.m. (0700 GMT) in the Galdi neighborhood near the entrance to the town.

"It happened not far from the town stadium when the police officer who was killed attempted to carry out a routine check," said one of the military officers, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the press.

He said authorities had dispatched teams to the scene of the bombing to gather more details and it was possible the death toll from the attack could rise.

Mora lies just a few kilometers from Boko Haram's strongholds in northeastern Nigeria.

The Islamist group has stepped up its attacks in the area since Cameroon last year launched a crackdown on the group, which had previously used the Extreme North region as a base for recruiting and supplying its operations in Nigeria.

Cameroon is a major contributor to an 8,700-strong, Nigerian-led regional force expected to start operations against Boko Haram this year.

(Reporting by Sylvain Andzongo; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark Potter)

Three blasts hit northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri: military

Publisher: Reuters
Story date: 20/09/2015
Language: English

Three blasts struck the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a military spokesman said on Sunday, a day after a new audio message purportedly from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau accused the army of lying about successes against the militants.

A hospital source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least eight dead bodies had been recovered after the blasts in a mosque and areas near the building on the edge of the city center, with many more feared dead and around 50 people injured.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosions. However, they bore the hallmarks of the Islamist militant group which has waged a six-year insurgency to form a state adhering to strict Islamic laws, a conflict that has killed thousands.

The audio recording, said to be of Boko Haram's leader, criticized Nigeria's military for saying it had recaptured villages that had fallen into the group's hands.

"They have lied about us saying that they have retaken our territories, taken weapons and driven us away," says the recording posted online on Saturday. "They are actually the ones whom we have driven away. They are all liars."

Maiduguri, the city hit by Sunday's triple blast, is the capital of the group's Borno state birthplace.

"There were three improvised explosive devices explosions at Gomari and Ajilari general area in Maiduguri at about 7:21 p.m. (3:21 p.m. EDT)," said military spokesman Colonel Sani Usman.

"Although details are not clear, it is important to note the attacks signify high level of desperation on the part of the Boko Haram terrorists," he said.

Suspected members of the group have killed around 800 people in Africa's most populous nation in a spate of bombings and shootings since President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated as president on May 29, vowing to crush the militants.

At the start of 2015 Boko Haram controlled vast swathes of territory across three states in the northeast.

Nigeria's army, aided by troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon, said it pushed Boko Haram out of most of that land earlier this year. Since then, the group has carried out its attacks on public areas such as mosques and markets.

When asked about the audio recording purportedly of the sect's leader, Colonel Usman said it was "the rant of a drowning man" before adding that experts were trying to establish whether it is Shekau's voice.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio message.

Nigeria's military has repeatedly claimed that Shekau has been killed over the last few years only for him to resurface in new videos and recordings, although security sources have said he may have been replaced by impostors.

Last month Chad's President Idriss Deby said Shekau, who has not appeared in a video since February, was wounded and had been replaced as leader by Mahamoud Daoud, of whom little is known.

(Additional reporting by Isaac Abrak and Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chizu Nomiyama)

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