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GAMBIAN soldiers launched a coup bid in the capital Banjul overnight while President Yahya Jammeh was abroad, military and diplomatic sources said today.

"The presidential palace was attacked very early this morning, at around 3am, by armed individuals. Some came from the presidential guard," a Gambian diplomat said.

Army sources and residents of the city confirmed the report and said the attackers had been driven back. Soldiers had prevented some civilians from going to work in the morning, a journalist said.

"They wanted to overthrow the regime," a military source in the small west African country said while a Western diplomat said a coup attempt has "apparently been foiled" by loyal troops.

Jammeh has ruled over the largely rural country of some 1.8 million people since 1994, when he seized power in a military coup himself, to be elected into office two years later.

Gambian officials said the president was on a private visit to Dubai, but foreign diplomats said Jammeh was in France.

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