Banjul – Gambian security forces went door-to-door in the capital Banjul on Friday in search of participants in a failed coup against the west African country’s strongman President Yahya Jammeh, residents said.
Witnesses said the troops, who also set up checkpoints on roads leading out of the coastal city, were searching for suspects from Tuesday’s assault on the presidential palace.
The attack, which was repelled by the security forces, took place while Jammeh was on a private visit to Dubai, diplomatic and military sources said.
“Gambian soldiers carrying guns are conducting a house-to-house,” a woman living in Banjul told AFP, asking not to be identified. “They believe the attackers are still hiding in the capital.”
Climate of fear
A fisherman, who also requested anonymity because of the climate of fear in the city, said he had been warned by relatives not to head back with his catch to the usual dock outside Banjul because “members of the armed forces and the paramilitary are lying in ambush in the creeks at Denton bridge and Old Jeshwang”.
Military and government officials were not available for comment.
An intelligence services source said on Thursday that dozens of people had been arrested in connection with the pre-dawn attack, which was carried out by heavily armed men travelling by boat.
Gambian military sources said the coup was led by a captain who deserted the army and who was killed along with two other assailants.
Four officers suspected of participating in the attempt have taken refuge in the neighbouring west African nation of Guinea-Bissau, a military source told AFP.
Human rights violations
Jammeh, 49, who himself took power in a coup, has ruled the tiny country which runs along the Gambia river for 20 years.
His presidency has been dogged by accusations of human rights violations and analysts have warned Tuesday’s attack could be used as justification for a clampdown.
On Thursday he accused unidentified foreign forces of attempting to unseat him and insisted that his army was “very loyal”.
“This was not a coup. This was an attack by a terrorist group backed by some powers that I would not name,” he said.
The UN’s west Africa envoy, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, condemned the “attempt to seize power through unconstitutional means”.
Ibn Chambas, who is due to visit Gambia soon, called on the security forces “to ensure that the investigations are conducted in full respect of human rights and regular legal process”.