World News

U.S. condemns 'severe response' to protests in tumultuous Gambia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States condemned on Sunday what it said was a “severe response to recent peaceful protests” in The Gambia, where a party youth leader has been killed and some senior opposition leaders arrested.

Security forces in the tiny West African nation arrested senior opposition members and their supporters on Saturday after they accused authorities of killing a party leader.

One of the people arrested was Ousainu Darboe, leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), along with supporters and party officials who had gathered at his home.

He had been pushing for information about the case of Solo Sandeng, the party’s national organising secretary, who was reportedly tortured to death while in detention. Sandeng had been arrested during a protest to push for election reforms and free speech protection.

“The United States condemns the government of The Gambia’s severe response to recent peaceful protests. We call for an immediate end to violence and urge all Gambians to exercise restraint,” said John Kirby, a State Department spokesperson.

The Gambia is headed by President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and has made headlines for eccentric proclamations, including a claim to have invented a cure for HIV/AIDS.

The former military man, who once told a reporter he could lead The Gambia for “a billion years,” is expected to extend his rule in elections in December.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Alan Crosby