September 18, 2015 / 11:26 PM / in 4 years

African Union suspends Burkina Faso, threatens sanctions

DAKAR (Reuters) - The African Union has suspended Burkina Faso and will impose sanctions on coup leaders if they do not restore the interim government and release its leaders, it said on Friday.

Soldiers from the elite presidential guard (RSP) stormed into a cabinet meeting on Wednesday and abducted President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Zida, disrupting a transition period due to end with polls next month. General Gilbert Diendere, a former spy chief, was named junta head the next day.

The AU statement followed a meeting of the Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa. It gave coup leaders 96 hours, or until September 22, to restore the transitional government or face travel bans and asset freezes.

“Council decides to suspend, with immediate effect, the participation of Burkina Faso in all AU activities,” it said, adding that members of the RSP linked to the kidnappings would be held legally accountable for their actions.

Burkina Faso, whose citizens toppled President Blaise Compaore last year as he sought to extend his 27-year rule, had been seen as a model by pro-democracy campaigners across sub-Saharan Africa.

The coup has been condemned by the United States, former colonial power France and the United Nations.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Editing by Toni Reinhold

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