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In Pay Dispute, Gambian Soldiers Seize Power in 'Bloodless' Coup

July 24, 1994| From Times Wire Services

DAKAR, Senegal — Mutinous soldiers in Gambia seized power Saturday after rampaging through the capital city of Banjul in a dispute over pay.

The ousted president, Dawda Jawara, had taken refuge on a U.S. warship, which was visiting Banjul on a training mission, diplomats in neighboring Senegal said.

The four lieutenants who proclaimed themselves the new government of Gambia, Africa's smallest nation, said the overthrow was bloodless. They closed Gambia's land borders and airport and cut international telephone lines after rampaging through Banjul on Friday.

Gunfire was reported, but there was no word on casualties, and British diplomats in the capital said the city was calm.

After declaring in state radio broadcasts monitored in Senegal that "the previous political regime has been completely toppled," the soldiers suspended the constitution and political parties and declared a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

The broadcasts announced the formation of a Provisional Council of the Armed Forces, headed by the four lieutenants, identified only as Yahah Jammeh, Sadibu Hydara, F.D. Sabaly and I. Signateh.

Several government ministers, including Vice President Saihou Sabally, were reportedly captured, but the radio broadcasts said they "are in safe hands."

Jawara, who was prime minister when Gambia won independence from Britain in 1965, became president when the country became a republic in 1970. He survived a leftist coup attempt in July, 1981, thanks to Senegalese military intervention.

Troops in Senegal, which surrounds Gambia, were on alert Saturday, but official sources said they were unlikely to intervene this time to restore Jawara because Senegal blames him for the breakup of the Senegambia federation in 1989.

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