Blaise Compaore, President of Burkina Faso, has reportedly fled the capital as a mutiny among his military bodyguards spread through barracks at the presidential compound and other army bases.
Compaore, who has held power in the land-locked, West African nation for nearly 24 years, left during the night for his hometown Ziniare, 30km north of capital Ouagadougou, an official speaking on condition of anonymity told the AFP news agency.
Gunfire erupted at the 50-acre presidential compound late on Thursday night, as troops demanding reportedly unpaid housing allowances began firing their weapons.
The shooting came from the military barracks of the presidential guard before spreading to other barracks and military camps, the source said.
An AFP journalist added that soldiers also looted shops in the capital overnight.
It was not immediately clear if there were casualties, but an ambulance was seen leaving the Ouagadougou compound late on Thursday night, said AFP.
A military official also said the home of General Dominique Diendiere, Compaore’s chief of staff, was ransacked and burned down.
“A couple of young soldiers have gone crazy,” a source at the barracks told AFP.
“We’re dealing with it.”
About two hours after the shooting began at 10pm local time, gunfire was also heard near the state radio station in the capital city.
Workers hid in the building and no-one was reported injured.
Compaore, who seized power in a bloody coup in 1987, was re-elected in a landslide poll in November rejected by the opposition as rigged.
The former army captain took power in 1987 in the small West African nation after his predecessor was gunned down in his office.
Burkina Faso has recently been hit by unrest. On April 8, people took to the streets of Ouagadougou to protest soaring prices of basic foods.
In March, students torched government buildings in several cities after a young man’s death in custody.
The government said he had meningitis, but accusations of mistreatment had fuelled deadly protests, killing at least six others in the town of Koudougou, 100km west of the capital.
In late March, disgruntled troops seized military equipment in several towns, including Ouagadougou, looted shops and freed soldiers imprisoned for rape and other sex crimes, says AFP.
Burkina Faso is near the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index — which measures general well-being. It is ranked 161 out of 169 nations.
It has high rates of unemployment and illiteracy, and most people survive on subsistence agriculture.