OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Burkina Faso’s government, facing mounting public anger over repeated killings by Islamist militants, extended its suspension of mobile internet service on Wednesday while offering conflicting reasons for why access was cut in the first place.
The authorities cut mobile internet on Saturday, which they later justified by citing a legal provision related to “the quality and security of networks and services and the respect of obligations of national defence and public security.”
The suspension came amid protests against the government and allied French forces after 49 military police officers and four civilians were killed on Nov. 14 near the northern town of Inata by suspected jihadists.
The internet cut was due to expire on Wednesday evening, but the government ordered it extended for another 96 hours, citing the same legal provision in a statement signed by government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura.
Hours earlier, however, Tamboura provided a different explanation for the initial internet cut in comments to reporters.
“We thought that our nation needed silence … in order to make sure we are able to bury our soldiers in a dignified manner. This restriction is linked strictly to that,” he said.
Many of the military police officers slain in Inata were buried on Tuesday at a ceremony some of their family members and friends criticised as lacking dignity.
Opponents of President Roch Kabore have called for fresh protests on Saturday against the government’s inability to contain violence by militants from West African regional affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Some of the public’s anger has been directed against former colonial power France, which has thousands of soldiers deployed in the region.
Hundreds of people in the city of Kaya massed over the weekend to block a convoy of French armoured vehicles on its way to neighbouring Niger. The convoy has still not been able to leave Burkina Faso.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Leslie Adler)