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Gambian president ‘returns home’ after failed coup

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, seen here in November 2011, was visiting Dubai when disaffected soldiers staged a coup. Photo/ AFP FILE

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, seen here in November 2011, was visiting Dubai when disaffected soldiers staged a coup. Photo/ AFP FILE

BISSAU, Dec 31 – Gambian President Yahya Jammeh returned home overnight after a failed coup by disaffected soldiers while he was abroad, a military source said Wednesday, voicing fears of a possible purge.

A group of heavily armed men led by an army deserter attacked the presidential palace in the capital Banjul before dawn on Tuesday, but were repelled by Jammeh’s forces.

The small city, which lies on an island in a river leading to the Atlantic Ocean, was tense but calm on Wednesday.

Jammeh, who had been on a private visit to Dubai, went directly to the presidential palace where he was shown the bodies of the attackers killed during the attempted coup, the source told AFP from Bissau.

Forces loyal to Jammeh, who has ruled The Gambia with an iron fist for 20 years, killed three suspects including the alleged ringleader — an army deserter, according to a military officer.

The source in Bissau said there were fears that Jammeh, who himself seized power in a coup in 1994, may launch a purge.

The coup bid “has exposed some flaws in the military system even though the attackers were repelled. Some officers are certain to be singled out.”

Jammeh, 49, claims to have foiled a succession of coup plots in the small west African state and has come under fire for serious human rights abuses, including repression of the media and the disappearance of rivals.

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