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Burkina Faso New Leader says President, PM Are Safe

FILE - A picture taken on December 10, 2011 shows General Gilbert Diendere in Ouagadougou.

The head of Burkina Faso's new ruling council said Thursday that the interim president and prime minister were safe in military custody and would soon be released.

Brigadier General Gilbert Diendere spoke to VOA's French-to-Africa service, one day after soldiers overthrew the West African country's transitional government and arrested its leaders.

The general said the military staged the coup because the country's political process was biased. He said he would start a political dialogue that included all parties.

Burkina Faso was scheduled to hold general elections October 11. That date is now in limbo.

At least three people were reported killed as young protesters tried to gather near the presidential palace in Ouagadougou, and the U.S. Embassy said roadblocks had been put up across the city.

In Washington, the White House strongly condemned what it called any extra-constitutional attempt to take power. The deputy head of the African Union Commission, Erastus Mwencha, demanded Thursday that the military leaders immediately hand back power to the transitional government.

"Any government that is unconstitutional is automatically condemned because we believe in the rule of law that any change of power must follow the constitutional process," Mwencha said.

He also appealed to people not to cooperate with the military takeover.

The interim government took power in Burkina Faso last October when a popular uprising toppled President Blaise Compaore, who had been in power for 27 years. He had planned to change the constitution so he could extend his rule.

The transitional government barred supporters of the toppled president from seeking office, and a national reconcilation commission had recommended that Compaore's powerful presidential guard be disbanded.

A soldier on state-run television announced Thursday that the transitional government had been dissolved and interim President Michel Kafando had been stripped of his duties. Diendere — a longtime ally of Compaore — was named chairman of what the military called the "National Council for Democracy."

The U.N. Security Council demanded that the president and prime minister be released, and it condemned the detentions in the "strongest terms." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was outraged and called the takeover a "flagrant violation" of Burkina Faso's constitution.

Burkina Faso's troops patroll in Ouagadougou on Sept. 17, 2015.
Burkina Faso's troops patroll in Ouagadougou on Sept. 17, 2015.