Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gambian Capital Locked Down After Apparent Coup Attempt
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh returns after coup attempt.
VOA News
December 30, 2014 6:08 PM

The president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, is heading home just hours after speculation began about a possible attempted coup in the West African nation, something the government denies.

Residents and diplomats in the Gambian capital of Banjul say that early Tuesday they awoke to armed attackers shooting near the presidential palace.

Initial reports claim soldiers linked to the presidential guard were involved in the fighting.

The French News Agency quotes an unnamed military officer as saying three suspects were killed in the violence, including the alleged ringleader, whom the officer described as an army deserter.

U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the United States is aware of reports of a coup attempt in Gambia.

"We strongly condemn any attempt to seize power through extra constitutional means. And we call for calm, and for all parties to refrain from further violence. We are of course in touch with our embassy in Banjul. The embassy remains open," said Rathke.

The Gambian government said there was no coup attempt.

Area residents said radio and television stations were airing only traditional music, which they said was unusual, as soldiers restricted movement in and out of the capital city.

Gambia is a former British colony surrounded by Senegal.

Human rights organizations have long criticized Jammeh's government as repressive, saying it targets political opponents, journalists and homosexuals.

Soldiers Lock Down Gambia Capital After Overnight Shooting

TVC Satellite News

Gunfire rang out in Gambia's capital Banjul overnight and soldiers blocked the bridge leading to the centre of the seaside city amid media reports of an attempted coup.

A diplomat said unknown gunmen had attacked State House during the night but shooting died down later. Local media and diplomats said Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh was in France when the violence broke out.

Jammeh, who himself came to power in a coup 20 years ago, has stifled dissent in the tiny West African nation and faced increased criticism from abroad over his human rights record.

In recent years, Jammeh has frequently reshuffled senior military and civilian officials, a move that prevented individuals from becoming too powerful but stoked instability.

Banks and other offices remained closed on Tuesday, residents said. State radio played traditional kora music and did not refer to the incident.

There was no official confirmation of the reports on Twitter and media of an attempted coup.

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