The head of Gambia’s army has given his full backing to the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh, amid a deepening political crisis.
Mr Jammeh suffered a surprise electoral defeat last month to Adama Barrow.
He initially accepted the result but changed his mind days later, citing electoral “abnormalities”.
In a letter to the pro-government newspaper, Gen Ousman Badjie pledged the “unflinching loyalty and support of the Gambia Armed Forces” to Mr Jammeh.
Gen Badjie’s intervention follows the threat of military action by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) if Mr Jammeh refuses to leave office on 19 January. President Jammeh has said any such intervention would constitute an act of war.
Mr Barrow’s team had previously claimed the support of Gen Badjie. The army’s support is seen as critical in building a transition after Mr Jammeh’s 22 years in power.
The tiny West African state has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.
The dispute over the election results has raised tensions in the region, with both neighbouring countries and international powers urging Mr Jammeh to step down.
Mr Barrow won 43.3% of the vote on 1 December, beating President Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third-party candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17.1%.
Those figures were revised from earlier totals, after the electoral commission discovered a tallying error affecting all candidates. The revised results did not alter the outcome of the election.
However, Mr Jammeh declared that he would no longer respect the result and has launched a court action to annul the result.
His security forces have seized control of the commission’s headquarters in the capital, Banjul, and the head of the election commission has fled the country over fears for his security.