Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Gambia arrests hundreds of prostitutes in sweep

BANJUL — Gambian plain clothes police have arrested 400 prostitutes in bars, hotels and nightclubs over the past few days, police in the West African tourist destination said on Wednesday.

Many of the women arrested by operation "Sweep Clean" in Banjul are from Senegal, Nigeria or Sierra Leone.

"We are going to screen all of them. Those who committed crimes or are illegal immigrants will face the law and the operation will be extended countrywide," police spokesman Sarjo Keita told Reuters.

Government officials said prostitution had reached an unacceptable level and they were worried about the spread of the virus which causes AIDS. Gambia lies in one of the world's worst affected regions.

Package tourists, many from former colonial power Britain, are an important source of income for Gambia.

The country of fewer than 1.5 million has been highlighted as a sex tourism destination by global campaigners against sexual exploitation, but usually for women from Europe seeking sex with Gambian men.

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