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Senegalese troops move toward Gambia borders amid crisis

By ABDOULIE JOHN
Of the Associated Press

DAKAR, Senegal — Gambia headed toward a showdown between longtime President Yahya Jammeh and the opposition president-elect who insists he will take office, as troops from neighboring Senegal were seen moving toward the borders Wednesday to step up pressure for the incumbent to leave.

As the crisis deepened, hundreds of beach-going tourists were evacuated from Gambia, a popular winter destination in West Africa for visitors especially from Britain, the former colonial power. The streets of the capital, Banjul, were largely empty by late afternoon Wednesday. There was very little military presence seen, said residents.

The tiny West African nation facing a potential regional military intervention is completely surrounded by Senegal and the ocean. Late Wednesday, witnesses reported seeing Senegalese soldiers in both the Kaolack region of Senegal to the north of Gambia, and in the southern Senegalese region of Casamance.

Witnesses spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals as the political crisis deepens.

Jammeh lost the Dec. 1 election after more than 22 years in power following a coup. He initially conceded defeat but later said voting irregularities invalidated the ballot. His mandate expires Thursday, and the president-elect is vowing to go ahead with his inauguration on Gambian soil though he has not offered any details.

“Those who resist peaceful change effective 12 midnight tonight shall face definite consequences, to their peril,” said Mai Ahmad Fatty, Barrow's special adviser, in a Facebook post in which he advised Gambians to stay indoors. “Anyone with firearms tonight shall be deemed a rebel, and will certainly become a legitimate target.”

The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS has threatened to use force if necessary to remove Jammeh. In addition to the Senegalese soldiers, private radio station RFM also has reported the arrival of Nigerian military equipment in the capital of Dakar. In addition to Nigeria and Senegal, Ghana also has pledged to contribute

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Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands and Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria contributed to this report.

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