The head of Burkina Faso's armed forces has taken power after mass demonstrations forced President Blaise Compaore to resign. There have been days of violent protests against the leader's 27-year rule.
General Honore Traore proclaimed himself the new president of Burkina Faso on Friday, just hours after President Blaise Compaore said he was stepping down to make way for elections.
"In line with constitutional measures, and given the power vacuum...I have decided that I will assume from this day the responsibility of the head of state," Traore told a news conference.
The army chief said he planned to have "consultations with all parties in the country so as to start the process of returning to the constitutional order" and restoring political stability.
The resignation of former President Compaore followed an escalation in violent protests in the capital Ouagadougou this week, with demonstrators demanding an immediate end to his 27-year reign.
In a statement read on local radio and television, 63-year-old Compaore said he was leaving power to allow for "a free and transparent election in 90 days."
Local media later reported that a heavily armed convoy, believed to be carrying the former leader, had been seen traveling south towards the town of Po near the border with Ghana.
Hundreds of thousands of people joined marches this week against Compaore's plans to amend the constitution - a bid to extend his term in office, instead of sticking to a pledge to step down next year. At the height of the unrest, demonstrators on Thursday stormed the parliament building in the capital and set fire to the main chamber.
Calls for swift elections
According to the West African nation's constitution, the head of the National Assembly should take office if the president steps down. But army head Traore dissolved the parliament on Thursday, before imposing martial law to restore order overnight.
A delegation from the African Union, the United Nations and Regional West African bloc ECOWAS was due to travel to Burkina Faso on Friday to hold talks on the situation with different political parties.
French President Francois Hollande called for "calm and restraint" in the former French colony, and urged for quick democratic elections to be held.
"France recalls its support for the constitution and thus for early, democratic elections," a statement from Hollande's office said.
Land-locked Burkina Faso gained independence in 1960 and is currently one of the world's poorest nations. Compaore, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, had ruled the country since 1987, when he seized power in a coup.
nm/kms (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)