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Gambian police arrests “gay tourists”

Authorities in Gambia have arrested two Spanish men for allegedly making “homosexual proposals” to taxi drivers, police said Monday. The arrests come less than three weeks after Gambia’s president ordered homosexuals to leave the West African country and threatened in a nationally televised speech to “cut off the head” of anyone discovered to be gay. The Spanish nationals were taken into custody Friday after the taxi drivers reported being solicited by them, police spokesman Sulayman Secka said. He declined to give further details on the incident or say when the men might be released. “They are helping the police in their investigation,” Secka said.

Homosexual sex is illegal in Gambia, where those convicted of consensual homosexual acts face jail terms of up to 14 years. Controversy over homosexuality has been growing across Africa in recent years, with many countries toughening laws prohibiting homosexuality even as South Africa legalized gay marriage. In his speech last month, President Yahya Jammeh also threatened to close down hotels that rent rooms to gays. “We are in a Muslim-dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country,” he said. Jammeh’s statements were condemned by international gay rights activists but welcomed by Gambia’s Supreme Islamic Council, which said Jammeh had taken a “principled stand.”

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