Written by by Adam Jourdan, CNN
A large crowd of protesters gathered Thursday to condemn Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore’s decision to run for a third term as the country’s head of state, and thousands were dispersed with tear gas, witnesses told CNN.
Local sources told CNN that security forces opened fire on demonstrators who had gathered near the presidential palace in Ouagadougou, the West African country’s capital.
“There is a large crowd of demonstrators protesting in front of the presidential palace,” Geneviève Aigouo, a journalist at Radio France Internationale in Ouagadougou, told CNN by phone. “Lots of tear gas canisters are being thrown. Some have been burning.”
“The soldiers were manning the barricades on the streets. This violence appears to be aimed at stopping any marches that might organize against the election,” she said.
Compaore, a former general who seized power in a military coup in 1987, was re-elected in a vote in October 2015.
CNN has not independently verified the reports of protests and tear gas usage. Reuters, a global news agency, reported the operation was supported by special forces.
Several Burkinabé musicians, including Léopold Sédar Senghor, the country’s renowned poet, also protested outside the presidential palace, tweeting: “We are capable of stopping this odious decision of state-seeking President Blaise Compaore.”
Two days of mourning have been announced in the country following a suicide attack last Friday on the town of Soum, which killed at least 20 people, according to Burkina Faso’s government.
Compaore’s decision to run again has angered many Burkinabé who oppose what they consider the former leader’s reign of terror.
Most recently, in 2015, 1,000 political prisoners, police and security forces were detained after a bid to remove Compaore from power failed.