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.