Tuesday, December 30, 2014 7:18 pm
Gambia says the alleged ringleader of Tuesday’s attempted coup d’etat, Colonel Lamin Sanneh, has been killed, along with two other soldiers.
Sanneh, described as an army deserter was said to have been the mastermind of the heavily-armed attack with another six men on the presidential palace in the capital Banjul, with a bid to topple the country’s iron-fisted leader, said to be in Dubai, military and diplomatic sources said.
The coup was foiled by forces loyal to President Yahya Jammeh, who has ruled the small country for 20 years.
A senior military officer, speaking to AFP from Bissau, said the pre-dawn assault triggered panic in the tropical city, while national radio went off air for several hours and state television was suspended.
Opposition politician Sheikh Sidya Bayo told a private Senegalese radio station that the unrest was “the start of a mutiny that changed” into a bid to topple Jammeh.
Three of the suspected coup plotters were killed and another captured by Jammeh’s forces, but there was no confirmation of an overall death toll from the fighting. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency had earlier given a death toll of five officers killed, adding that Sanneh was captured.
“Police and the army are now entirely in control of the situation,” the military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A Gambian diplomat said the presidential palace was attacked at around 3:00 am (0300 GMT) by armed men, including members of the presidential guard.
“They wanted to overthrow the regime,” a military source told AFP, while a Western diplomat said a coup attempt has “apparently been foiled”.
Army patrols urged people to return home and remain calm as they fanned out across the capital. Shops, banks offices and businesses were closed and few vehicles were on the streets.
“Contrary to rumours, there is peace and calm in the country and people are advised to go about their normal businesses. We are praying for peace and tranquility to continue,” state radio announced late Monday, quoting a government statement.
– History of coup plots –
The former head of military police, Jammeh, 49, has ruled the largely rural nation of some 1.8 million people with a firm hand since 1994, when he came to power in a coup that toppled founding leader Sir Dawda Jawara.
Jammeh first led an armed forces provisional ruling council that suspended the constitution of the former British colony. In 1996, he went on to win a presidential election, aged just 31, amid allegations of fraud.
The army justified Jawara’s ouster on the grounds of endemic corruption and policies that undermined democratic institutions and caused social unrest.
Since the young soldier took power and donned the flowing robes of a civili