General Gilbert Diendere (R) speaks with Mohamed Ibn Chambas (C), special representative of UN secretary general for West Africa, and Kadre Desire Ouedraogo (L), Commission president of ECOWAS, in Ouagadougou on September 18, 2015
Ouagadougou (AFP) - The leaders of Burkina Faso's coup began mediation talks with two African heads of state Friday as troops fired in the air to stop protestors from marching on an iconic square in the capital.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc and Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi, arrived in the capital Ouagadougou for vital negotiations in a bid to end the crisis.
They immediately huddled into a Ouagadougou hotel with coup head General Gilbert Diendere for talks.
As they arrived, members of the elite presidential guard which spearheaded the coup, fired in the air to disperse anti-putsch protestors who tried to march on the capital's iconic Revolution Square.
The downtown square was the epicentre of a popular uprising against Burkina Faso's veteran ruler Blaise Compaore, who was forced to quit last year after trying to extend his 27-year-rule.
Civil society groups had urged people to gather in front of Ouagadougou airport on Friday to "remind" Sall that "one does not negotiate with terrorists."
Protests spilled over to the country's economic capital Bobo-Dioulasso where women gathered with brooms and giant wooden spatulas, showing that they wanted a clean up.
The west African nation was preparing to hold its first democratic election in decades before a military coup Thursday led by allies of the former president threw the nascent democracy into turmoil.
An elite army unit (RSP) loyal to former president Compaore seized power after complaining the transition government was excluding his supporters in the upcoming October 11 election.
ECOWAS said it rejected "the disruption of the democratic process" in a joint press release with the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) on Thursday.
"The group reaffirms its full support for the transition at this crucial period for the future of Burkina Faso."
Ouagadougou was calm throughout the night, with people respecting a curfew imposed by the military. In the morning, there were fewer cars on the road than usual, with some shops locked shut.
- Fresh uncertainty -
On Wednesday and Thursday, clashes between the coup forces and protesters resulted in at least three people dead and 60 wounded, according to a hospital source.
In response to the violence, the military closed land and air borders, reopening them on Friday afternoon.
Coup leaders also released interim president Michel Kafando and two ministers but prime minister Isaac Zida was still under house arrest.
"As a sign of easing tensions and in the general interest, the National Council for Democracy has decided on the release of the ministers and Michel Kafando," said a statement, adding that the interim president had been released late on Thursday.
Coup head Diendere — Compaore's former chief of staff — meanwhile met with senior ministry officials on Friday. A day earlier he had met foreign diplomats based in Ouagadougou.
Diendere, a political veteran elected by coup leaders to helm their "National Council for Democracy", dismissed allegations that the coup was orchestrated by Compaore, whose whereabouts are unknown.
He insisted that he is committed to holding an election. "We do not intend to drag this on, we do not intend to stay," said Diendere on Thursday evening.
The presidential and legislative elections slated for October are supposed to mark the end of the transitional government installed after Compaore was toppled in a popular uprising last year.
"Handsome Blaise" had ruled the country since assuming power in a 1987 coup, which ended in the mysterious death of President Thomas Sankara.
This week's coup has been unanimously condemned by the international community, with the UN, African Union, European Union, ECOWAS, the United States, and its former colonial overlord France denouncing the junta.
"Those elements of the presidential security forces involved in this destabilisation attempt shall be held accountable for their actions," said AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
The AU Peace and Security Council will meet Friday to discuss the coup, said Dlamini Zuma, where it is prepared to "take all necessary measures warranted by the situation."