Gambia government denies coup plot against Yahya Jammeh

  • 30 December 2014
  • From the section Africa
The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh speaks to journalists on 24 November 2011 Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Yahya Jammeh has been in power for two decades

The Gambia's government has denied there has been an attempt to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh while he is abroad.

A statement broadcast on state radio said that "contrary to rumours being circulated, peace and calm continue to prevail" in the West African state.

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.

A British teacher in Bakau, about seven kilometres (four 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'

Banjul residents told AFP news agency that security forces were positioned on street corners and carrying out patrols.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Jammeh has won four elections marred by allegations of rigging

State radio had been off-air during the fighting, but resumed transmission later.

In radio statement, the announcer said "peace and calm continue to prevail" in The Gambia.

"[The] government would like to urge the public and all businesses to continue with their normal activities," it added.

The statement did not clarify Mr Jammeh's whereabouts. Some media reports say he is on a visit to France, while others say he is in Dubai.

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.

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.

Correction 15 January 2015: This story has been amended to remove reference to a statement, purportedly from President Yahya Jammeh, that later turned out to be fake.

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