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Hundreds join anti-France protest in Burkina Faso capital

People hold a sign to show their support to the Junta leader Ibrahim Traore and demand the departure of the French ambassador in Ouagadougou

By Thiam Ndiaga

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Hundreds demonstrated against France in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Friday, the latest expression of growing anti-French sentiment in the insurgent-hit West African country.

Hundreds gathered in central Ouagadougou on Friday, chanting anti-France slogans and wielding placards calling on the French army to "get out".

Some set fire to French flags or used them to collect rubbish.

"We want... to show France that we no longer need her," said protester Adama Sawadogo.

Relations between Burkina Faso and its former colonizer have soured following two military coups last year spurred partly by authorities' failure to protect civilians from jihadist activity in the arid north.

Some of the tension revolves around perceptions that France's military presence in Burkina Faso has not improved security.

Demonstrator Lassane Sawadogo deplored how security has steadily deteriorated in Burkina Faso since unrest began in 2015.

The protest was largely peaceful and ended without incident, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.

Angry mobs have previously targeted the French embassy, cultural centre and military base.

Burkina Faso's military government has also been at odds with France since it toppled the previous junta in a coup at the end of September.

Authorities suspended the broadcast of France's RFI radio in December over reports they said were false and gave voice to Islamist militants.

Earlier this month, the government requested the replacement of France's ambassador.

France has some 400 special forces based in Burkina Faso to help local forces battle the Islamist insurgency that has spread across the Sahel from Mali over the past decade.

Thousands have been killed and over 2 million displaced. The violence has exacerbated regional food insecurity.

Authorities in Burkina Faso are still searching for over 60 women kidnapped by armed assailants last week.

Relations between Paris and Bamako have also deteriorated since a military coup in August 2020. In February 2022, France announced withdrawal of troops from the country.

(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Sofia Christensen)