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Thomas Sankara killing: Burkina Faso’s Diendere charged

The leader of September’s short-lived coup in Burkina Faso has been charged with complicity in the 1987 murder of former President Thomas Sankara.

Gen Gilbert Diendere later described the coup as "the biggest mistake"
Gen Gilbert Diendere

Gen Gilbert Diendere is the most senior official to be charged.

President Sankara was murdered by a group of soldiers, but the exact circumstances of his death have remained a mystery.

Mr Sankara, a left-wing radical described as “Africa’s Che Guevara”, is a hero for many Africans.

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An autopsy found that his body was “riddled with bullets”, his family’s lawyer said recently.

He was succeeded by Blaise Compaore who stayed in power for 27 years, before being ousted by street protests in 2014.

Gen Diendere, who went on to be Mr Compaore’s intelligence chief, was seen as a close friend and political ally of Mr Sankara at the time of his death.

He is said to have worked with both French and US intelligence agencies and helped negotiate the release of Western hostages kidnapped by jihadists groups in West Africa.

He has not commented on the charges, but his lawyers say they are preparing a response.

During Mr Compaore’s rule the investigation into the murder made little progress.

Former Compaore loyalist Roch Marc Kabore was last week declared the winner of the country’s first election since the long-time leader was ousted.

Who was Thomas Sankara?

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara
  • A captain in army of Upper Volta, a former French colony in West Africa
  • Instrumental in the coup that ousted Col Saye Zerbo as president in 1982 Burkina general ‘helped kill ex-leader’
  • Took power from Maj Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo in an internal power struggle and became president in August 1983
  • Adopted radical left-wing policies and sought to reduce government corruption
  • Changed the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright men”
  • Killed in mysterious circumstances by a group of soldiers in October 1987, aged 37

The transitional government, which took over after Mr Compaore was overthrown in 2014, pledged to investigate the murder.

Ten other officers have so far been charged in connection with the death of Mr Sankara.

Gen Diendere is already in detention, facing charges in connection with September’s seven-day coup. BBC