Thousands of Western holidaymakers were being evacuated from the Gambia last night as West African troops massed on the border to topple the country's resident dictator.
The tourists left in emergency flights from the capital, Banjul.
The exodus took place as several hundred troops from neighbouring Senegal gathered on the border, with instructions to remove Gambia's president, Yahya Jammeh, by force if he did step down when his term expired at midnight.
Mr Jammeh, one of Africa's most feared strongmen, reneged on a pledge to leave power after losing elections in December and has been under growing international pressure to quit.
His would-be successor, Adama Barrow, a property developer who once worked as a security guard for Argos in London, is due to be inaugurated today, but is currently in neighbouring Senegal amid fears Mr Jammeh might try to assassinate him.
Holidaymaker Allan Pennell (69), from Crewe, England, said: "I asked if it was possible to stay but our tour rep said 'No, everyone has to leave'."
The Senegalese troops are understood to have been joined by an 800-strong Nigerian contingent, as well as jets from the Nigerian Air Force and a Nigerian warship that is in the area on manoeuvres.
Last night, the president of neighbouring Mauritainia, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, arrived in Banjul to attempt to persuade Mr Jammeh to step down. (© Daily Telegraph London)