Burkina Faso has been hit by confusion and uncertainty after suffering its second military coup in a year – with gunshots fired in the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday and protesters starting a fire outside the French embassy.
Self-declared coup leader Captain Ibrahim Traore has accused old junta leader President Paul-Henri Damiba – the man he toppled on Friday – of planning a counter-offensive.
Traoré also accused the French army of hiding Damiba at one of its military bases – a charge that France quickly refuted.
“We formally deny involvement in the events unfolding in Burkina Faso,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The camp where the French forces are based has never hosted Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba nor has our embassy.”
An attack on the French Embassy in Ouagadougou by angry Traoré supporters drew condemnation of “the greatest firmness” from Paris.
Anti-French crowds in Burkina Faso’s second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso also reportedly vandalised the French Institute, a cultural centre.
Since Friday Russian flags have been waved at rallies in support of the coup plotters with strong anti-French slogans.
The French Foreign Ministry told AFP a crisis centre had been opened in Ouagadougou, adding that the security of its citizens was its top priority.
Meanwhile French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre urged French citizens to stay at home, telling France 24 on Saturday the situation in the capital was “confusing”.
Traoré, 34, accuses Damiba of failing to rein in an Islamist insurgency that has displaced almost 2 million people in the impoverished West African nation.
Damiba’s overthrow comes less than nine months after he himself ousted former president Roch Kabore for the same reason.
In a statement posted on the President’s Facebook page, Damiba said: “I call on Captain Traoré and company to come to their senses to avoid a fratricidal war that Burkina Faso does not need.”
The coup creates fresh problems for West Africa’s political bloc, Ecowas, which has tried to persuade various coup leaders in the region to return to civilian rule.