Soldiers loot Burkina Faso capital for 2nd night

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2011 10:45 AM
Soldiers loot Burkina Faso capital for 2nd night

Police in Burkina Faso's capital fired tear gas Saturday on thousands of angry merchants protesting a second night of looting by soldiers, the latest of several recent episodes of unrest in the small West African nation.

On Saturday, the minister of security announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew for Ouagadougou on national radio and television after angry merchants marched through the capital to protest the looting sparked by soldiers protesting their unpaid housing allowances. Witnesses said the soldiers looted shops, stole cars and robbed hotels late Friday and into the early hours of Saturday.

On Saturday, the merchants also looted and torched shops near the city's main market.

"We are not going to stop until we get answers to our problems: we need justice and money to compensate our losses," said Hamade Sawadogo, a protester.

The soldiers' protest started late Thursday when gunfire erupted at the presidential compound and led to overnight looting. That incident prompted President Blaise Compaore to announce late Friday that he was dissolving his government and naming a new army chief and a new head of presidential security.

A government statement Friday said that soldiers were protesting over payment of housing and daily subsistence allowances. It said the problem was being "sorted out," and expressed its regrets for any suffering during the protests.

Compaore, who seized power in a bloody coup 23 years ago, was re-elected by a landslide in a November vote rejected by the opposition as being rigged. The former army captain took power in 1987 in the small West African nation after the former leader was gunned down in his office.

Burkina Faso has been hit by unrest recently. On April 8, people took to the streets of Ouagadougou to protest soaring prices of basic foods.

In March, students torched government buildings in several cities to protest a young man's death in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations of mistreatment have fueled deadly protests, killing at least six others.

Burkina Faso is near the bottom of the United Nations' Human Development Index, which measures general well-being, ranked 161 out of 169 nations. It has high rates of unemployment and illiteracy, and most people get by on subsistence agriculture.