Burkina Faso junta orders French embassy's defence attache to leave

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) -Burkina Faso's military junta has ordered the French embassy's defence attache to leave the country due to "subversive" behaviour, it said in a leaked letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

Attache Emmanuel Pasquier's expulsion is the latest sign of increasing tension between the West African nation and its former coloniser France since a military government seized power in two coups last year.

France has maintained strong ties with its former colonies and has troops stationed across West Africa, but hostility towards its presence has soared since a string of military coups. Critics see it as interference.

The letter, dated Sept. 14 and verified by Reuters, said Pasquier and his personnel had two weeks to leave the country. The French embassy in Ouagadougou could not be reached. A diplomatic source said Pasquier was still in the country.

France's foreign ministry said it was looking into reports of the expulsion and could not immediately comment.

The letter did not elaborate on what Pasquier did to prompt his expulsion. It said the defence section of the Burkina Faso embassy in Paris had been closed with immediate effect.

Burkina Faso's self-appointed transition government has already ordered the departure of France's ambassador and that of senior United Nations official Barbara Manzi. There has also been a crackdown on French media.

Anti-French sentiment has grown since Burkina Faso first fell under military rule in January 2022. Several protests by opponents of the French military presence took place, partly linked to perceptions that France has not done enough to tackle an jihadist insurgency that has spread in recent years from neighbouring Mali.

The prolonged insecurity led to political instability and spurred two military coups in Mali, two in Burkina Faso and one in Niger since 2020.

Niger's junta, which seized power at the end of July, expelled the French ambassador last month.

(Additional reporting by Geert De Clercq in ParisWriting by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Grant McCool)