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Fresh from promotion, Burkina Faso writer-colonel leads a coup

DAKAR, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the leader of the military coup that ousted Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore on Monday, is a lieutenant colonel with relatively little public profile who was promoted in December to oversee security in the capital.

Dressed in military fatigues and a red beret, Damiba stared ahead impassively in a low-lit studio as a captain to his left read a statement in his name on national television announcing Kabore's overthrow here and the suspension of the constitution.

He is the author of a book published last June titled "West African Armies and Terrorism: Uncertain Responses?" here that analyses "the particularities of West African terrorism", according to the French publisher's website.

Damiba studied at a military academy in Paris and received a master’s degree in criminal sciences from the city’s Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, according to the publisher, Trois Colonnes.

He testified in 2019 in the trial of conspirators behind a 2015 coup in Burkina Faso that briefly deposed a transitional government, according to reports from the time in Burkinabe media.

In his testimony, Damiba discussed contacts he had with some of the putschists during the coup, according to the reports.

The junta that seized power on Monday, calling itself the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration, or MPSR, faulted Kabore for rising violence by Islamist militants and pledged to lead a transition back to constitutional order.

Damiba’s appointment in December as commander of Burkina Faso’s third military region, which is responsible for security in the capital Ouagadougou, was part of a shake-up that some analysts viewed as an effort by the beleaguered Kabore to shore up support within the army.

The move followed an attack by Islamist militants on a gendarmerie post in the northern town of Inata that killed 49 military officers and four civilians, sparking anti-government protests and calls for Kabore to step down.

Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Bate Felix and Kevin Liffey

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