U.S. fears Palmyra’s fall will boost fire­power of Is­lamic State.


DAKAR, SENE­GAL | Gam­bia’s se­cu­rity forces should im­me­di­ately va­cate the of­fices of the coun­try’s elec­toral com­mis­sion, the United States and the out­go­ing U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­eral said Wed­nes­day, with the U.N. chief warn­ing their pres­ence could com­pro­mise “sen­si­tive elec­toral ma­te­rial” as Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh re­fuses to ac­cept be­ing voted out of power.

Tues­day’s takeover of the of­fices, even as sev­eral West African lead­ers were in the tiny coun­try urg­ing Jam­meh to re­spect elec­tion re­sults, was an “out­ra­geous act of dis­re­spect of the will of the Gam­bian peo­ple and de­fi­ance to­wards the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” the spokesman for U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said.

The rul­ing party is now seek­ing a new elec­tion, say­ing the Dec. 1 vote was not con­ducted fairly. West African lead­ers with the eco­nomic bloc ECOWAS will meet Satur­day in Nige­ria to dis­cuss the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis as un­cer­tainty deep­ens in the coun­try of 1.9 mil­lion.

Mr. Jam­meh at first shocked the coun­try by ac­cept­ing de­feat af­ter 22 years in power, even mak­ing a con­ces­sion call to op­po­si­tion can­di­date Adama Bar­row, a one­time real es­tate de­vel­oper, that was broad­cast on state tele­vi­sion. A week later, he an­nounced he had changed his mind. The turn­around chilled the cel­e­bra­tions in a na­tion where the gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of wide­spread rights abuses that have sent thou­sands of Gam­bians flee­ing to­ward Europe.

The rul­ing party on Tues­day brought a pe­ti­tion against the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion and Gam­bia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, say­ing the elec­tion was not con­ducted in good faith and should be in­val­i­dated. Mean­while, se­cu­rity forces sur­rounded the elec­toral com­mis­sion of­fices and re­fused to let staffers en­ter.

The com­mis­sion has stood by a vote it has called trans­par­ent, fair and ac­cu­rate.

Mr. Ban called on Gam­bia’s se­cu­rity forces to im­me­di­ately va­cate the elec­toral of­fices and to re­frain from fur­ther acts that would jeop­ar­dize a peace­ful trans­fer of power.

Mo­hammed Ibn Cham­bas, the U.N.’s en­voy to West Africa, warned Mr. Jam­meh would face a bar­rage of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions if he clings to power and does not step aside in fa­vor of Mr. Bar­row.

“For Mr. Jam­meh, the end is here and un­der no cir­cum­stances can he con­tinue to be Pres­i­dent,” he said, ac­cord­ing to Al Jazeera. “By that time, his man­date is up and he will be re­quired to hand over to Mr. Bar­row.”

The U.S. Em­bassy in the cap­i­tal, Ban­jul, also de­manded that se­cu­rity forces with­draw, say­ing the “un­nec­es­sary and un­pro­voked show of force is seen as a move to sub­vert the demo­cratic process in the Gam­bia.”

It re­mains un­clear what ac­tion will be taken on the pe­ti­tion by Mr. Jam­meh’s party, as there is no sit­ting Supreme Court to rule on the chal­lenge. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said it does not be­lieve the pe­ti­tion “will be heard by a cred­i­ble court ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing the in­tegrity of Gam­bia’s demo­cratic process.”

Mr. Jam­meh, who seized power in a blood­less 1994 mil­i­tary coup, has long been ac­cused by hu­man rights groups of over­see­ing a gov­ern­ment that im­pris­ons, tor­tures and some­times kills its op­po­nents.

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