Gambia's president says he has vowed to start executing by mid-September all of the country's inmates who had been sentenced to the death penalty as part of efforts to curb the rising crime rate.

President Yahya Jammeh did not say how many would be executed, but said the death sentences must be carried out as people continue to commit heinous crimes. He spoke Sunday during his annual televised meeting with Muslim elders.

The number of people sentenced to death since 1997 could be about 30, but official numbers are not available.

Gambia's former minister Omar Jallow told The Associated Press Tuesday that the death penalty had only been carried out once before the sentence was abolished in the early 90s. He said Jammeh's regime reinstated the death penalty in 1995, but no executions have been carried out since.