March 23, 2011 / 8:53 AM / 8 years ago

Gunfire heard overnight in Burkina capital

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Several hours of gunfire rang out in the Burkina Faso capital overnight, a Reuters witness said on Wednesday in what an army source said was a protest by soldiers against recent arrests of their colleagues.

The gunfire could be heard emanating from two military camps, one in Ouagadougou and one on its outskirts, lasting more than three hours into early Wednesday. Several service stations had been pillaged.

Authorities could not be reached for comment but a source at army headquarters said soldiers had been angered by the arrest and jailing of five colleagues found guilty of attacking a civilian when an argument went out of control.

“They think the prison terms were too heavy and they were protesting,” said the source of jail terms up to 18 months.

Such army protests are rare in the poor, cotton-producing West African state, ruled with a firm grip by President Blaise Compaore since he seized power in a 1987 coup. He was re-elected last November with a landslide 80 percent of the vote.

A landlocked country of 15 million people in West Africa, Burkina Faso has been benefiting from high commodities prices.

While it has avoided much of the instability seen in the region, it closed its universities this month after protests at the death of a student who died following a spell in police custody. Six people have died and public buildings torched in the student protests.

Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Bate Felix and Mark John; Editing by Diana Abdallah

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