World

Gunfire reported in capital of tiny Gambia while longtime ruler is away in Europe

  • FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2006, file photo, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, center, leaves a central Banjul polling station after casting his vote for president in Banjul, Gambia. Heavy gunfire is reported Tuesday Dec. 30, 2014, near the presidential palace in Gambia, according to local residents, raising the specter of a coup attempt while the longtime ruler is currently visiting France, state media reported. On Tuesday, soldiers linked to his presidential guard were believed to be involved in the fighting, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, FILE)

    FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 22, 2006, file photo, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, center, leaves a central Banjul polling station after casting his vote for president in Banjul, Gambia. Heavy gunfire is reported Tuesday Dec. 30, 2014, near the presidential palace in Gambia, according to local residents, raising the specter of a coup attempt while the longtime ruler is currently visiting France, state media reported. On Tuesday, soldiers linked to his presidential guard were believed to be involved in the fighting, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, FILE)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, file photo, Gambia's  President Yahya Jammeh arrives for a summit to address a seminar on security during an event marking the centenary of the unification of Nigeria's north and south in Abuja, Nigeria.  Heavy gunfire is reported Tuesday Dec. 30, 2014, near the presidential palace in Gambia, according to local residents, raising the specter of a coup attempt while the longtime ruler is currently visiting France, state media reported.  On Tuesday, soldiers linked to his presidential guard were believed to be involved in the fighting, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.  (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, FILE)

    FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, file photo, Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh arrives for a summit to address a seminar on security during an event marking the centenary of the unification of Nigeria's north and south in Abuja, Nigeria. Heavy gunfire is reported Tuesday Dec. 30, 2014, near the presidential palace in Gambia, according to local residents, raising the specter of a coup attempt while the longtime ruler is currently visiting France, state media reported. On Tuesday, soldiers linked to his presidential guard were believed to be involved in the fighting, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, FILE)  (The Associated Press)

Residents in the tiny West African nation of Gambia are reporting heavy gunfire near the presidential palace.

The violence rocking Banjul early Tuesday comes as longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh is out of the country on a visit to France.

Witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said soldiers linked to the presidential guard were involved, raising the specter of a mutiny.

The deputy of the National Intelligence Agency, Louis Gomez, refused to comment on the reports.

Gambia is a tiny former British colony surrounded by Senegal on both its northern and southern borders.

Human rights activists say Jammeh's regime is repressive and has targeted political dissidents, journalists, and gays and lesbians. Jammeh first took power at the age of 29 after a 1994 coup.