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Gambia’s capital rocked by gunfire amid reports of attempted coup

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Gunfire erupted around the presidential palace in Banjul, capital of the Gambia, overnight and soldiers blocked the bridge leading to the centre of the coastal city amid media reports of an attempted coup.

A diplomat said unknown gunmen had attacked State House during the night. Local diplomats and media said the Gambia’s president, Yahya Jammeh, was in France when the violence broke out.

Banks and other offices in the capital and surrounding neighbourhoods remained closed and residents locked themselves indoors. State radio played traditional kora music and did not refer to the incident.

A French foreign ministry spokesman said Jammeh was not on an official visit in Paris and diplomatic sources said there was no indication that he was in France on a private visit either.

There was no official confirmation of reports on Twitter and media of an attempted coup but a senior west African diplomat said mutineers were in control of some strategic pockets of the capital on Tuesday afternoon.

Jammeh, 49, who came to power in a coup 20 years ago, has stifled dissent and faced increased criticism from abroad over his human rights record.

In recent years he has frequently reshuffled senior military and civilian officials, a policy that has prevented potential rivals accruing power but which has contributed to instability.

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