OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) - Guards loyal to Burkina Faso's ousted leader Blaise Compaore detained the country's interim president and prime minister on Wednesday, the parliament speaker said.
Members of Compaore's powerful Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) "burst into the cabinet room at 2.30pm and kidnapped the President of Burkina Faso Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida, and two ministers (Augustin Loada and Rene Bagoro)," interim parliament speaker Cheriff Sy said in a statement sent to AFP.
An AFP reporter said troops near the presidential palace fired gunshots on Wednesday night to disperse several hundred protesters who had gathered to condemn the guards' detention of the leaders.
It was impossible to immediately verify whether live rounds had been used or whether anyone had been wounded.
The gunfire was continuing as of 7.30pm (3.30 am on Thursday Singapore time). Protesters fled towards the city centre as the shots rang out. Broadcasts by Radio France Internationale and the private Omega station were cut.
The crowds had gathered with whistles and vuvuzelas near the palace, shouting "Free Kosayam (the name of the palace)" and "Down with the RSP".
Sy called the detention of the president and prime minister "a serious attack on the republic".
"I call on all patriots to mobilise to defend the motherland," he said.
"Duty calls us because the Burkinabe nation is in danger. We call on the solidarity that active forces, political forces, civil society and the international community have with all the people of Burkina Faso to defeat this operation."
Compaore was toppled October 2014 and fled into exile in Ivory Coast after a popular uprising triggered by his attempt to extend his 27-year rule.
A transitional government has been charged with running the poverty-striken Sahel nation country until presidential and legislative elections are held, the first round of which is to take place on Oct 11.
The RSP has repeatedly tried to disrupt the ongoing transition.
On Monday the country's National Reconciliation and Reforms Commission recommended that the 1,300-man security force, considered the country's best troops, be disbanded.
'SAY NO TO THE COUP'
The Balai Citoyen ("Civic Broom") movement, which has been at the forefront of anti-Compaore protests, called for protesters to gather to "say no to the coup d'etat under way", an appeal that was shared widely on social networks.
State television was broadcasting its usual cartoons and a football match. Its buildings have traditionally been guarded by the RSP.
A local journalist, contacted by AFP, said employees had left the broadcaster's offices as RSP reinforcements arrived.
The RSP sparked a brief political crisis in June by demanding the resignation of Zida, an army lieutenant-colonel and number two in the powerful regiment, who had publicly called for the unit to be dissolved in the interest of national security.
Supporters of Compaore are banned from standing in the upcoming elections under a controversial election law passed in April, which made anyone who supported "unconstitutional change" ineligible to run.