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Police in new mutiny in Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, Apr 28 – Protest-hit Burkina Faso was faced with a fresh police mutiny in the capital Ouagadougou as shots were heard from a barracks of the Republican Security Company (CRS), witnesses said.

Shots were heard first inside the barracks in the Dassasgho district in the east of the city which has been under a nightly curfew for nearly two weeks, the witnesses told AFP by telephone.

The policemen then went out into the streets of the neighbourhood, firing into the air.

New violent protests had erupted earlier Wednesday in a flashpoint town as angry shopkeepers and students set fire to the mayor\’s home and a police headquarters.

Witnesses said that a mob had set fire to the buildings in the town of Koudougou to protest a decision by the local mayor Seydou Zagre to close some 40 shops which had failed to pay local taxes.

As well as torching Zagre\’s offices and the local municipal police headquarters, they also set a local investment office ablaze.

Residents said that several hundred people then joined a march through Koudougou, their ranks swelled by groups of students.

Koudougou, 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Ouagadougou, was the birthplace of a wave of protests in the country two months ago, placing growing pressure on veteran President Blaise Compaore, in power for 24 years.

The first protest in Koudougou took place on February 22 when students took to the streets, saying a school pupil said to have died of meningitis was in fact tortured and killed in police custody.

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Allegations of impunity in the police, torture and cover-ups and the high cost of living have led to a wave of protests among all sectors of the population against Compaore\’s regime.

Soldiers also mutinied, over the imprisonment of several colleagues for sex crimes and later for better pay and working conditions, going on the rampage in several towns across the country.

At least six people have been killed and many injured during the protests, while mass looting by mutinous soldiers led to considerable material damage. A curfew in Ouagadougou has been in place since mid-April.

Compaore tried to quell the unrest by firing his government and several military chiefs, and ordering the payment of bonuses to soldiers.

He also named himself defence minister and appointed a new prime minister, former ambassador Luc Adolphe Tiao.

The opposition has called for a large protest Saturday against Compaore, who after seizing power in a 1987 coup has been re-elected four times since 1991, with over 80 percent in contested polls.

Adding to the country\’s ills are woeful social conditions, with much of the 16 million population living on barely one euro a day, while prices of basic goods continue to rise and political elites live opulent lives, according to the opposition.

In the southwest town of Bobo Dioulasso, the country\’s main cotton-producing region, hundreds protested peacefully to demand an increase in buying prices and the lowering of the price of fertiliser.

In a declaration handed over to local authorities they demanded the buying price of cotton go up to 500 FCFA (0,76 euros) a kilo from 245 FCFA and that fertiliser drop to 15,000 FCFA for a 25kg bag from the current 17,833 FCFA.

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