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Gambia president returns home after reports of attempted coup

31 December 2014, 12:32

Banjul - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh arrived back in Banjul on Wednesday, official sources said, one day after gunfire erupted around the presidential palace and the government denied media reports of a coup attempt.

Jammeh was in France or Dubai when violence broke out and he returned home via N'Djamena, where he told officials from Chad during a refueling stop on Tuesday evening that he planned to return home.

Jammeh, 49, himself took power in a coup 20 years ago and since then has stifled dissent in his impoverished West African nation. He has come under increasing criticism from abroad over issues ranging from human rights to his claims he can cure AIDS.

Banks reopened on Wednesday, people headed to work and the city's key Denton Bridge was also open, witnesses said.

On Tuesday, state radio played traditional music and an announcer read a government statement playing down the incident.

"Contrary to rumours being circulated, peace and calm continue to prevail in The Gambia," it said. "(The) government would like to urge the public and all businesses to continue with their normal activities."

Gambia, a splinter of land wedged into Senegal, has ocean beaches that attract tourists, particularly during the northern hemisphere's winter. They include about 60,000 Britons a year. The British foreign office advised its citizens to stay indoors and avoid public gatherings.

Witnesses in the centre of Banjul, which is situated on an island and connected to rest of the city by the Denton Bridge, said on Tuesday that security forces were stationed on street corners and patrolled streets after hours of shooting earlier in the day.

This year the European Union withdrew millions of dollars in aid, shortly after Jammeh signed into law an act that could imprison homosexuals for life. In 2012, he was criticised for executing nine people being held in prison.

- Reuters


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