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Anti-Compaore protesters set fire to parliament

Bid to extend presidential term limits delayed by demonstrations

Protesters stormed the parliament building in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou yesterday, setting its main chamber ablaze in the most significant challenge yet to President Blaise Compaore's 27-year rule.

The demonstrators wanted to a block a vote in parliament that would have allowed the president - a close ally of Paris and Washington - to seek a fifth term.

State television and radio went off the air and it was not immediately clear where Mr Compaore was.

Demonstrators were jubilant when they heard that the vote on term limits had been stopped.

Flames enveloped the main building in the parliament complex and many MPs fled to a nearby hotel.

"It is difficult to say what happens next, but things are out of control because the demonstrators do not listen to anyone," said opposition MP Ablasse Ouedraogo.

Military leaders set up a meeting yesterday afternoon with the influential traditional chief of the country's largest ethnic group, the Mossi, according to ruling party spokesman Jonathan Yameogo.

Mr Compaore took power in a 1987 coup and has been elected four times since, though the opposition has disputed the results.

Crowds also attacked the homes of government ministers and looted shops in the second-largest city, Bobo Dioulasso.

Police in the capital had earlier pushed the crowds back with tear gas but protesters regrouped in larger numbers, surged past police lines and broke into the parliament building.

France uses Burkina Faso as a base for military operations against Islamists in the Sahel region, but it has urged Mr Compaore to scrap the proposed constitutional amendment.

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