OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Lieutenant Colonel Issaac Zida said on Saturday he was taking over as head of state in Burkina Faso, in an apparent putsch against the military chief of staff Honore Traore who had earlier said he would lead a transition.
Burkina Faso's longtime President Blaise Compaore had resigned on Friday amid mass protests against his efforts to extend his 27-year rule, leaving two military factions vying for control of the West African country.
Zida's statement, broadcast on Radio Omega FM, came after a resident living near the presidential palace in Ouagadougou reported hearing several minutes of heavy gunfire in the early hours of Saturday.
"I assume from today the responsibilities of head of this transition and of head of state," Zida said in his statement, which he read in the studio of BF1 Television.
The whereabouts of Traore was not immediately clear. He had announced that he would take over the presidency at a news conference shortly after Compaore's resignation on Friday, but had not appeared publicly since then.
Many of the tens of thousands of protesters who packed the streets of Ouagadougou on Friday had rejected Traore's announcement, saying that he was too close to outgoing president Compaore.
Capitalising on the frustration among protesters, a group of junior officers led by Zida -- who commands a regiment of the president guard, the army's best trained and equipped force - quickly moved to challenge Traore's authority late on Friday, announcing curfew measures and the closure of borders.
Compaore was a close military ally of the United States and former colonial power France. The events will be closely watched by other governments across West and Central Africa, where a number of long-serving leaders are reaching the end of their constitutional terms.
Burkina Faso is one of the world's poorest nations but has positioned itself as a mediator in regional crises. It is also a key ally in Western operations against al Qaeda-linked groups in West Africa.
(Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Kim Coghill)