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Gambian coup “thwarted”- Yahya Jammeh

The president of The Gambia says he remains in charge of the West African state after his security forces thwarted an attempted coup.

Yahya Jammeh said an ex-army commander tried to take control of the country while he was visiting France. His current whereabouts are unclear.

Heavy gunfire had earlier erupted near the presidential palace in the capital. Mr Jammeh seized power in a coup in 1994 and his critics accuse him of ruling with an iron-hand.

Diplomatic and military sources said soldiers from the presidential guard appeared to have mounted the attack on the presidential palace in Banjul in the early hours of Tuesday.

The government denied there had been an attempted coup in a statement broadcast on state radio.

Missing president

However, Mr Jammeh later acknowledged the attack and said forces loyal to Lamin Sanneh – who he called a “disgraced” former soldier – had invaded The Gambia from Senegal “in an attempt to overthrow its legitimate government”.

He said the attackers were quickly repelled, with security forces killing four of them and capturing four more.

“Rest assured that the Enemies of the People have been defeated,” the president said in a statement.

He said he would be “returning from my state visit to France immediately,” but a French foreign ministry spokesman said there was no indication Mr Jammeh had been in the country. Some reports say he is in Dubai.

State radio had been off-air during the fighting, but resumed transmission later. An announcer said “peace and calm continue to prevail” in The Gambia.

BBC World Service Africa Editor Richard Hamilton says it is difficult to know exactly what is going on in the country because the media is tightly controlled by the government.

Journalists told the BBC that the capital remained in lockdown with only government soldiers allowed in and out of the city.

A British teacher in Bakau, about 7km (4 miles) from Banjul, told the BBC that The Gambia had shut its nearby land borders with Senegal.

“Most of the big shops are closed at this point but there’s absolutely no military or police presence,” he said.

‘Bizarre views’

In 2011, Mr Jammeh told the BBC he would rule The Gambia for “a billion years”.

He has won four disputed elections since taking power as a 29-year-old army officer in 1994.

Mr Jammeh is known for expressing bizarre views. In 2007, he claimed that he could cure Aids with a herbal concoction – a view condemned by health experts. Later, he also claimed that he could cure infertility among women.

Mr Jammeh is also known for his virulent opposition to gay rights, having once threatened to behead gay people.

The tiny West African state, with its sandy beaches, is a popular tourist destination.

Source: BBC

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