Gunshots Heard in Gambia Capital Amid Reports of Coup

Gunshots were heard near the presidential residence in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, early today and state radio and television were off air for a time amid reports of an attempted coup.

There were fewer public-transport vehicles on the streets of Banjul today and many shops, banks and schools were closed. Soldiers at the Denton bridge about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the capital aren’t allowing vehicles into the city. At 1 p.m. local time, state-owned Radio Gambia urged calm and for people to go about their business.

Agence France-Presse said an attempted coup had failed, citing unidentified people in the military.

The airport in the capital is operating normally, the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office said on its website. The U.S.’s Overseas Security Advisory Council advised U.S. citizens to avoid Denton Bridge and Banjul.

Island City

Banjul, a city of about 31,000, is located on St. Mary’s Island in the Gambia River estuary. Denton Bridge provides access.

Gambia’s government says it has faced at least two recent coup attempts in 2009 and 2006. In 2010, eight former security officials were sentenced to death for attempting to overthrow Jammeh. The country’s former chief of defense staff was jailed in 2010 for his involvement in an abortive coup in 2006.

Gambia, with a population of about 1.8 million people, is the smallest country on mainland Africa and is surrounded by Senegal on three sides. The $918 million economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to expand 7.4 percent this year.

Jammeh, 49, came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and has won every election since then. His rule has been faulted by groups such as Amnesty International for alleged human-rights violations including unlawful arrests and unfair trials.

In 2007, Jammeh’s claim that he could cure AIDS with a herbal treatment was rejected by groups including the World Health Organization. Jammeh has also criticized homosexuality, calling it a threat to “human existence.”

(Corrects to remove reference to Facebook page after determining that it was not an official Yahya Jammeh page. This story was originally published on Dec. 30.)
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