Coup suspect dies in police custody

One of the 12 suspects, mostly soldiers, who were arrested in Burkina Faso last week for allegedly plotting a coup against President Blaise Compaore, died in police custody on Wednesday night.

State Prosecutor Abdoulaye Barry told reporters in the capital, Ouagadougou, that the suspect, Moussa Kabore, 30, was born in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire but became a Seargent in an army unit in Ouagadougou.

He said Kabore committed hanged himself using a piece of cloth cut from his military uniform. An autopsy was due to be carried to confirm the cause of death on Thursday. "We are practically sure of the cause death but in this kind of situation it is always better to have a medical garantee," he added.

Barry said that the alleged mastermind of the coup, one Captain Wally Luther Diapagri, had visited "key officials" in Cote d'Ivoire and Togo in September.

Announcing the arrests on Tuesday, Barry had said the coup was planned with the backing of a neighbouring country, which provided large sums of cash to the plotters. That country, he added, had expected to deliver weapons to the plotters. He declined to name the country.

A source in Ouagadougou told IRIN that more than US $178,731 was given to the coup plotters by the "African country" but their activities had been followed by the secret services.

Relations between Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire deteriorated following a coup attempt in Abidjan in September 2002. The Ivorian authorities accused Burkina Faso of supporting mutinous soldiers who tried but failed to topple the Abidjan government. The soldiers seized chunks of northern and western Cote d'Ivoire and still control those areas.

The prosecutor announced that following Kabore's death, he had ordered a revision of the detention conditions of the coup supects, each of whom he said was staying in an individual bedroom.

Another man, Lt. Phillipe Minoungou was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the coup attempt. Barry said he arrested trying to jump over a fence into the United States embassy. Minoungou, he said, had been serving at the elite military unit of Po, 100 km south ofOuagadougou.

More arrests were likely, he added.

Opposition leaders have criticised the arrests, blaming it all on wrangles within the army. "There is an unhappiness within the army which has become a personal affair," Herman Yameogo, the leader of the Union for National Development and Democracy party said.

Most of the arrested soldiers belonged to President Compaore's security guard before being deployed to other units. The guard is made up mainly of an elite army group that Compaore commanded before seizing power in a bloody coup. One of them, Captain Bauoulou Boulibié, was from the military unit Bobo Dioulasso.

Burkina Faso, a landlocked country, that gained independence in 1960 from France has experienced five coups since then. The latest brought Compaore to power on 15 October, 1987. Then president, Captain Thomas Sankara was killed in that coup.