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Tourists flee Gambia as army to intervene over political unrest

By PA Reporters

UK holidaymakers have begun returning from The Gambia, amid growing concerns about political unrest in the west African nation.

Thousands of Britons are due to be flown home after the Foreign Office (FCO) urged people to avoid non-essential travel to the winter sun destination.

Thomas Cook said the first flight back from the country - since it triggered contingency plans to return customers - had departed after a short delay, and will land in Manchester on Wednesday evening.

The flight's departure comes following reports that Senegalese troops are moving towards the Gambian border from two sides.

Thomas Cook said it expected to have brought back around 3,500 passengers, on a total of 16 flights, by the end of Friday.

The Gambia's president, Yahya Jammeh, has refused to hand over power, after losing an election and, on Tuesday, banned "acts of disobedience", while urging security forces to maintain order.

A group of west African nations has threatened to take military action if Mr Jammeh does not cede power to his successor, Adama Barrow, this week.

A 90-day state of emergency has been declared in the country, where political deadlock has led to a "high" risk of military intervention and civil disturbance, the FCO said.

The international airport in the capital Banjul could be closed "at short notice", according to the travel advice.

Travel trade organisation Abta, estimated there are around 2,000 people on package holidays in the country, with more than 1,500 others on flight-only trips.

The Gambia Experience, part of Hampshire-based travel firm Serenity Holidays, said it is contacting its 225 package-holiday customers and 109 flight-only customers in the country, to provide details of their repatriation options.

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