September 28, 2015 / 2:40 PM / 3 years ago

Burkina Faso elite unit refuses to disarm after coup: army chief

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s powerful presidential guard is resisting efforts to disarm it after carrying out a short-lived coup against a transitional government earlier this month, the army’s chief of staff said on Monday.

Presidential guard soldiers are seen on an armoured vehicle at Laico hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 20, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

The government, restored to power by popular protests and international pressure, disbanded the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) on Friday after it had arrested the president, taken the prime minister hostage and named General Gilbert Diendere as head of state.

The coup, which lasted just over a week, spurred waves of protests throughout the landlocked West African country, during which at least 11 people were killed and 271 injured.

“The disarmament process ... has found itself at an impasse since Sunday... marked by the refusal of officers from the former Presidential Security Regiment to follow disarmament,” the statement said.

Members of the presidential guarded have “started incidents” and intimidated personnel in charge of the disarmament mission, said the statement, which also accused General Diendere of behaving “ambiguously”.

For his part, Diendere said in an interview with French television that the disarmament will proceed despite threats and arrests against some of the presidential guard troops.

“Things are now back to normal with this disarmament. I believe this operation will continue,” he said.

Transitional President Michel Kafando formed a commission to identify those to be prosecuted for the attempted putsch.

The government has also frozen the assets of Diendere and 13 others suspected of ties to the coup or political parties linked to Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore.

Diendere, Compaore’s former spy chief and right-hand man, said he led the coup because of plans to disband the elite guard and exclude Compaore allies from participation in upcoming presidential elections, originally scheduled for Oct. 11.

Reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly and Mathieu Bonkoungou in Ouagaduogou and John Irish at the United Nations; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and G Crosse

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