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French symbols targeted after Burkina Faso coup

Supporters of a coup against Burkina Faso leader Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba attacked the French embassy in the capital Ouagadougou on Sunday.

Security forces used tear gas at the embassy to disperse the protesters as unrest continues to grip the country, according to French news agency AFP.

In the second military coup this year, junior soldiers, under the leadership of Captain Ibrahim Traoré, announced they had overthrown Burkina Faso’s military government on Friday.

Several French symbols in the country have since come under attack, after the soldiers accused Damiba of hiding at a French military base and of plotting his return to power. France’s cultural institution in Ouagadougou, the Institut Français, suffered “important damage,” according to France’s Foreign Ministry. A French institution in the country’s second-largest city Bobo Dioulasso was also attacked.

In a statement, the ministry condemned “the violence against our diplomatic institutions in Burkina Faso in the strongest terms.”

Both France and Damiba have denied allegations he has taken shelter at a military base belonging to the Burkino Faso’s former colonial power.

The political instability in Burkina Faso comes as the military struggles to fight off a jihadist insurgency in the north and the east of the country. According to official figures, more than 40 percent of the country is no longer under government control.

According to French channel France Info, Russian flags were seen at demonstrations against Damiba on Friday and Saturday and the new leadership announced “their desire to go towards other partners” than France in its fight against Islamist terrorism — without specifically naming Russia.  

The incidents recall the sudden deterioration of relations between France and Mali in the wake of military coups in 2020 and 2021, which led to the ousting of France’s ambassador to Mali and France’s decision to withdraw troops from Mali.

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