Leftist Gambian rebels, still threatening to kill the president's wife and children, were surrounded by Senegalese and Gambian paramilitary forces today in what was described as a tense standoff in the bloody five-day insurrection, diplomatic sources here reported.
The rebels were holed up in a depot used by Gambia's paramilitary Field Force police six miles west of the island capital of Banjul in the Bakau suburb, where they also have controlled a Gambian radio transmitter since the rebellion began Thursday.
Babacar Gay, a Gambian journalist reached by telephone in Banjul from London by the British Broadcasting Corp., said that last night the rebels put Gambian President Dawda Jawara's senior wife and several of his eight children -- all of whom are hostages -- on the radio with appeals to Jawara not to let the Senegalese troops advance on the rebel's refuge.
"They are still threatening to kill them," Gay said.
Radio Senegal announced at 1 p.m. that two hostages had been released by the rebels. One of the released hostages was Seydou Nourou Ba, executive secretary of the Senegalese-Gambian bilateral trade commission. The second hostage was not identified. Gay added that at least 200 people have been killed in four days of street-to-street fighting and that Banjul's small public mortuary "was overflowing" with decomposing bodies.
It was also revealed today that at the beginning of the revolt the rebels released hundreds of criminals from the capital's two jails, captured the Field Force's armory and passed out a wide assortment of weapons to the freed convicts with instructions to prepare for an expected Senegalese troop invasion.The information came from Senegalese refugees returning to Dakar from Banjul by boat and was confirmed by diplomats of several foreign missions here.
The Senegalese refugees said the criminals began "killing people indiscriminately" in Banjul with bursts from Soviet-designed AK47 assault rifles. A diplomat added that the rebels warned the released criminals to stop a spree of looting that began at dawn on Thursday, and that when the criminals refused, the rebels began to shoot the looters. That resulted in fighting between the rebels, who described themselves as "Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries" in radio broadcasts, and the criminals they had freed from jail, the diplomatic sources said.
But by midday yesterday, Banjul was safe enough for Jawara to return from Senegal's capital, Dakar Jawara had flown to Dakar from London early Friday morning after asking Senegalese President Abdou Diouf to send in troops to crush the revolt.
Jawara was in London to attend Prince Charles' wedding when the revolt began at 5 a.m. Thursday.
It was unclear in Dakar today if the release of two of about 30 hostages was in the beginning of negotiations. The rebels' radio broadcasts stopped this morning.
The rebels, who include some members of the government's Field Force, are led by a self-described Marxist Gambian named Kukli Samba Sanyang. Many stories have circulated about Sanyang. But with the exception of concrete information that he ran for Gambia's House of Representatives and lost disastrously in 1977, and that his Gambia Revolutionary Socialist Party was banned last October after an alleged Libyan-inspired plot to destabilize the government, little is known aobut him.
Senegalese sources reported today that at least 10 Senegalese soldiers were killed and 36 wounded in the fighting since Thursday. Diplomatic sources put the number of Senegalese troops in Gambia at more than 1,000 since Saturday.
Diouf has been severely criticized here by four of the country's nine opposition partiesk for sending the country's soldiers into Gambia. Mamadou Dia, leader of the Senegalese Democratic Movement and a former prime minister, has demanded their immediate withdrawal. m
In a brief radio and television broadcast defending his decision, Diouf appealed to the Senegalese to recognize that Senegal's security was jeopadized by the Gambian revolt. Diouf added that Senegalese soldiers were sent on the basis of a mutual defense treaty between the two countries and claimed that the rebels "were foreign-trained and equipped."
Jawara has made similar charges but neither Jawara nor Diouf has indicated what foreign power was involved.