Army major arrested in connection with September coup plot

The government of Burkina Faso said on Friday it had arrested an army major in connection with a coup plot against President Blaise Campaore that was first revealed in September.

State prosecutor Abdoulaye Barry said Major Remy Kambou Sie, the former commander of the army garrison at Gaoua, a town in southwestern Burkina Faso, near the borders with Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, was arrested on 2 January.

He was the 15th member of the armed forces to be arrested in connection with the alleged coup plot since September. One of those detained, Sergant Moussa Kabaore was officially reported to have hanged himself in his cell in October, a few days after his arrest.

Two civilians, protestant pastor Israel Pare and banker and opposition activist Norbert Tiendrebeogo have also been detained and charged with plotting to end Compaore's 17-year rule in this poor landlocked West African country.

The government has accused government officials in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire and Togo of complicity in the affair.

Barry said several other civilians and military officers had been questioned in connection with the alleged plot in addition to those already detained. All those charged would go on trial in February, he added.

The prosecutor said Kambou had been arrested during his return to Burkina Faso on holiday from Mali, where he was attending a course in a military academy. He said the army major had been questioned and released in the initial stages of the inquiry, but subsequently came under renewed suspiscion.

"It is the same Kambou who we questioned earlier, but this time wa have decided to detain him because we realised he knew much more about the case than had earlier been appararent," Barry said.

Halidou Ouedraogo, the president of the Burkina Faso Movement for People's and Human Rights (MBDHP) told IRIN on Friday that several of those detained were reported to be ill, but he was still awaiting permission to see them.

"I am concenred by what I have heard because it is alarming and I am afraid there will never be true justice if those detained are denied the right to speak at all," he said.

Campaore came to power in a coup in 1987, during which his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, was killed. Campaore resigned from the army four years later in order to contest a presidential election in 1991 which he won. He was re-elected for a further seven-year term in 1998.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Salif Diallo, a close aide of Campaore, said the president would run again as the candidate of the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress party in 2005.

Campaore has for years enjoyed close links with the Libyan leader Muamar Ghaddafi. He has often been accused as acting as Ghaddafi's agent in the destabilisation of other West African countries, notably Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire.

Burkina Faso enjoys warm relations with the rebels who have occupied the northern half of Cote d'Ivoire since a civil war erupted in the country in September 2002.