Students in Burkina Faso set buildings ablaze

The national student association called for a massive rally Friday after days of unrest across the country in which students torched government buildings and freed prisoners from a police station to protest a young man’s death.

The demonstrations began late last month after a jailed student died in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations of mistreatment have fueled deadly protests, killing at least six others.

The government announced Wednesday it was closing schools until further notice, as students in the northern city of Ouahigouya torched police headquarters, the city hall, customs offices and the headquarters of the ruling party there.

Angry students in a half dozen other cities also set fire to various government buildings on Wednesday. And earlier this week, students freed some 20 prisoners when they torched a police station.

Students are demanding that the government fire the ministers of health, security and justice following the Feb. 20 death of Justin Zongo. Already a head of police and a governor have been fired by the government in a move to appease the mounting tensions.

The landlocked country has been ruled by Blaise Compaore, who first came to power through a bloody coup in 1987.

Burkina Faso is near the bottom of the United Nation’s Human Development Index, which measures general well-being, ranked 161 out of 169 nations. It has high rates of unemployment and illiteracy, and most people get by on subsistence agriculture.

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