Guards Seize Interim Leaders of Burkina Faso, Gunfire Heard



OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — Guards seized Burkina Faso’s interim president, prime minister and two cabinet ministers Wednesday, in what appeared to be a military coup attempt less than a year after the last abrupt power shift in this poor African country.

Gunfire was heard near the presidential residence in the hours after the seizure of the interim president, Michel Kafando, his prime minister, Isaac Zida, and the two ministers. Their whereabouts as of Wednesday night was not clear.

Military patrols crisscrossed neighborhoods of the capital into the late hours and fired warning shots to disperse demonstrators who were protesting the seizures and yelling, “Free the hostages!” Television and radio broadcasts ceased.

Chérif Sy, head of the Burkina Faso Parliament, issued a statement on Wednesday evening calling the events a “serious attack on the republic and its institutions.” He exhorted “all patriots to defend the motherland.”

A security source who declined to be identified for safety reasons said the guards had seized the leaders after bursting into a cabinet meeting in the midafternoon.

The guards were members of the Presidential Security Regiment, known by its initials, R.S.P., a powerful group formed by the former president, Blaise Compaoré. He was ousted last October after an uprising to protest his attempt to change the Constitution and extend a 27-year-long rule in the country.

The reasons behind the seizing of the leaders were not clear. But it happened two days after publication of a political reform commission’s report recommending dissolution of the R.S.P.

The prime minister, Mr. Zida, a former R.S.P. member, was among those who pushed out Mr. Compaoré. Mr. Kafando is a former foreign minister and United Nations ambassador. They were part of a transitional administration that was to be replaced in elections set to start on Oct. 11.