Gambia's Jammeh has started 'hiring mercenaries'
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who has refused to step down after losing last month's election, has started to hire mercenaries, Buzzfeed reports.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened to oust Mr Jammeh by force if he does not step down when his mandate ends on 18 January.
It was unclear if Mr Jammeh was gathering mercenaries in order to cling on to power or to prevent any attempt to prosecute him for abuses carried out during his long reign, Buzzfeed said.
The report quotes an unnamed Ivory Coast intelligence officer as saying there was a big recruitment of former militants from Ivory Coast and mercenaries from Liberia.
It added that the effort was led by a former Liberian general and one-time Taylor loyalist who has recruited ex-fighters for other conflicts in West Africa and personally met with Jammeh in Gambia in mid-December.
“There’s a vast recruitment of ex-Ivorian militants and Liberian mercenaries underway, headed by former officers of Charles Taylor,” a senior intelligence officer in Ivory Coast told BuzzFeed News by phone.
“These recruitments are taking place in southwestern Ivory Coast, around San Pedro, Grabo, Tai, and Toulepelu.”
“There’s between 300 to 400 people who have signed up for a fee ranging between $100 to $300 a day,” added the intelligence officer, who said Ivorian officials were “working out how to stop them.”
Gambia’s Information Minister Sherrif Bojang did not respond to BuzzFeed requests seeking comment by Thursday.