Gambia's new President Adama Barrow returned to his country Thursday, accompanied by heavy security and greeted by jubilant crowds.
Barrow flew to Banjul from Senegal, where he has been staying since unrest swept Gambia following longtime president Yahya Jammeh's refusal to step down after he lost a national election in December.
Barrow, whose plane was guarded by Senegalese and Nigerian troops after it touched down in the capital, stepped onto a red carpet and was greeted by shouts of welcome, a reporter on the scene said. Hundreds of jubilant Gambians lined the road from the airport ahead of his arrival, dancing and cheering.
A spokesman for Barrow's political coalition, Halifa Sallah, said more formal welcoming ceremonies were being arranged.
Barrow was sworn in as president at Gambia's embassy in Senegal last week. He has asked U.N. peacekeeping forces to remain in Gambia for six months, a U.N. official said.
The special U.N. representative for West Africa, Mohammed ibn Chambas, says the U.N. forces are assigned to ensure the safety of Barrow, his administration and all Gambian citizens.
Jammeh left the country Sunday, after regional leaders backed by the U.N. conducted prolonged negotiations that eventually persuaded him to relinquish power.
Barrow was declared winner of the December 1 presidential election. Jammeh, who came to power in Banjul in 1994 during a coup, at first conceded defeat, but then changed his mind and refused to hand over power, citing mistakes allegedly committed by Gambia's Independent Electoral Commission.