British tourists in Gambia have been advised to stay close to their beach resorts after reports of heavy gunfire near the presidential palace.
Rumours circulating in the tiny West African nation – a former British colony - spoke of a failed military coup attempt in the capital Banjul while long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh is out of the country on a visit to France.
There was a blackout on Gambian state radio and television and the city was in lockdown, but the government denied there had been coup attempt.
However, a foreign diplomat said unknown gunmen had attacked the palace and the presidential guard was involved in the fighting.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office said it had received reports of gunfire but the situation now appeared to be calm, though precise details of what had happened remained unclear.
It is advising any Brits in Banjul to remain indoors, avoid public gatherings and monitor local media for developments.
The main resort areas, which are well away from Banjul's centre, were unaffected, it said, and the airport was operating as normal.
It said Brits should remain within the area of their resort.
Around 50,000 UK holidaymakers visit the Gambia each year, mainly on winter sun breaks, and Thomas Cook is one of the main operators there and currently has 651 customers there.
A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “We can confirm that we are aware of reports of a military situation in the Gambia.
“The majority of our customers are staying in beach properties far away from the scene of the incident.
"Our resort teams have stated that our customers are continuing to enjoy their holidays in resorts where it is very much business as usual.”
However, as a precautionary measure, the firm has delayed a flight carrying 205 passengers from Birmingham to the Gambia by 24 hours tomorrow while the situation in Banjul remains unclear.
In Gambia 191 holidaymakers were remaining in hotels for an extra day awaiting return to the UK.
A Thomas Cook Airlines spokesman said: “We are providing welfare and accommodation for our customers at Birmingham airport whilst we await further information from the FCO.
“Our resort team are advising affected customers currently in the Gambia of this delay, with accommodation organized at no extra charge.
“We continue to monitor the situation in the Gambia, and remain in regular contact with the FCO as well as the Gambian Tourist Board.
“The safety and wellbeing of Thomas Cook customers and staff is our priority and we will continue to liaise with our experienced overseas team.
“The FCO currently has no restrictions in place for travel to the Gambia – accordingly, normal booking conditions apply.”
Human rights activists have long criticized Gambian president Jammeh's regime as repressive, saying it targets political dissidents, journalists, gays and lesbians. Jammeh himself seized power in a coup 20 years ago.
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