Security forces in Gambia have begun arresting people suspected of having links to an attempted coup this week, sources in the country and international human rights groups said on Friday.
It was not immediately clear how many arrests had been made but Amnesty International and two other organizations called on security forces to respect international law.
Gunmen attacked the capital, Banjul, in the early hours of Tuesday, when President Yahya Jammeh was out of the country. Diplomats say at least four attackers were killed and several others are on the run.
Since returning on Wednesday, Jammeh has warned he would not spare anyone involved in the attempted coup, which local media said was led by former presidential guard chief Lamin Sanneh.
Sanneh’s mother and brother were amongst those arrested so far, family members said, asking not to be named.
Amnesty International, the Senegalese Human Rights League and Pan African rights group RADDHO issued a joint statement expressing their concern over the arrests.
“While we firmly oppose all accession to power by unconstitutional means, we condemn the arbitrary arrests that are being made in Gambia based solely on people’s links to alleged actors and we fear indiscriminate repression with a view to spread terror,” the groups said.
The groups did not say how many arrests had been made. Gambian authorities have not given any details on arrests.
Jammeh came to power in a coup 20 years ago and has a tight grip on the tiny nation, a slither of land on the Atlantic coast surrounded by Senegal. A failed coup plot in 2006 led to a crackdown and some executions, according to rights groups.
Jammeh has denied any members of his security forces took part in the clashes that paralyzed the capital, accusing dissidents based in the United States, Britain and Germany of launching the raids with the help of unnamed foreign powers.
Analysts and local media said a number of the attackers were U.S. residents or dual nationals. The U.S. government has denied any involvement.
“Nobody can also destabilize this country. So anybody who comes to attack this country; be ready because you are going to die no matter who you are and who backed you,” Jammeh said.
“We will get to the bottom of this and we will not spare anybody,” he said. “Enough is enough. They want to destroy our country. We will destroy them,” he added.