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Flights to the UK from Gambia suspended by tour operators

Flights to the UK from the crisis-stricken Gambia have been suspended by British tour operators, the Foreign Office said.

Holidaymakers were forced into a chaotic exodus earlier this week as the country teetered on the brink of military conflict following post-election unrest.

Unseated president Yahya Jammeh is expected to leave for Guinea, after previously risking intervention from neighbouring states when he refused to hand over power to his successor, Adama Barrow.

Around 1,000 sun-seekers on Thomas Cook packages were ordered to pack their bags and head for the airport after the Foreign Office issued an alert late on Tuesday.

All package holiday tourists have now returned to the UK before air travel was halted, but some passengers who travelled independently could remain, Thomas Cook said.

Thomas Cook said 2,524 British travellers left Gambia on 16 flights between Wednesday and Friday, "accounting for all customers who wanted to leave the country".

The final flight out of Banjul airport was at 7pm on Friday night, it added.

A spokesman said: "A lot of people have come back, some stayed because a lot of our (flight-only) customers were Gambian nationals, dual-nationals and a lot of travellers and people who have long stays."

Flights to the country with the operator will remain suspended until at least January 31.

Mr Jammeh declared a 90-day national state of emergency on Tuesday, prompting British officials to advise against all non-essential travel to the country. They have since warned against all travel to Banjul.

Political tensions were eased after the defeated leader relinquished power on Friday and is poised to leave the country.

On Wednesday, Thomas Cook dispatched extra staff to Gambia and began extra repatriation flights, saying there were some 3,500 customers in the country.

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