NEW: Dusk-to-dawn curfew established nationwide, a general says
NEW: The whereabouts of President Blaise Compaore are not immediately known
Parliament stormed as lawmakers consider extending the President's rule
The military in the West African nation of Burkina Faso seized control of the government on Thursday and set a dusk-to-dawn curfew in what one general described as an effort to protect lives and restore order.
Unrest has gripped Burkina Faso – a key ally for the West in the fight against al Qaeda – as protests against President Blaise Compaore’s government turned violent, culminating Thursday with demonstrators storming the Parliament and setting fire to the building.
Saying it was in the best interest of the country’s citizens and supported by “national and international opinion,” Gen. Honore Nabere Traore told reporters in the capital city of Ouagadougou that the “government is dissolved.”
“An interim authority will be set up in order to prepare the conditions for the return to normal constitutional order within a period of 12 months at the latest,” Traore said.
The whereabouts of Compaore were not immediately known, and it was not immediately clear whether he had surrendered control of the country.
Earlier in the day, Compaore took emergency measures, asking in a government communique read on national radio for an end to the violence. He also withdrew a proposed constitutional amendment that included a provision that would allow him to seek another term in office, according to the communique.
Compaore, who has been in office since he took power following a bloody coup in 1987, also made an appeal via Twitter, urging for a return to calm.
But it was unlikely to placate the opposition, which called for his immediate resignation.
In Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city, protesters reportedly tore down a statue of Compaore.
The incident followed reports that a large group of protesters had stormed the Parliament building, where lawmakers were set to vote on a motion to allow Compaore to extend his 27 years of rule.
Footage aired by a number of the country’s media outlets show the Parliament building engulfed in flames. There have been reports of casualties in the violence, but CNN has not been able to independently confirm the claim.
Flights in and out of Ouagadougou have been suspended, according to the Burkina Faso Embassy in Washington. Embassy personnel told CNN that it was still issuing visas but that there were no flights at the moment.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all groups to end the violence, asking that they “exercise calm and restraint.”
The West, particularly France, considers Burkina Faso a key ally in the fight against al Qaeda. The country was formerly known as the Republic of Upper Volta, when it was established in 1958 as a self-governing colony under France.
France urged restraint in the current situation. The French Foreign Ministry condemned the violence.
The African Union announced it would deploy troops alongside United Nations forces as part of a joint mission to address the unrest.
CNN’s Pierre Meilhan and Elwyn Lopez contributed to this report.