By Pap Saine
BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia said on Monday it had executed nine prisoners, prompting critics to call for sanctions on the president whose plans to clear the country's death row by mid-September had already drawn a flurry of international condemnation.
Six civilians and three members of the military were executed by firing squad on Sunday after their appeal processes had been exhausted, the interior ministry said in a statement.
It named the prisoners and said they had been found guilty of a variety of crimes, all involving murder. At least one of those named had been previously identified as a Senegalese citizen but there was no immediate comment from Dakar.
President Yahya Jammeh last week announced in a speech plans to push through all pending death sentences saying he wanted to "ensure that criminals get what they deserve".
The decision drew condemnation from the African Union, Britain and the European Union, which promised a quick but unspecified response.
Monday's interior ministry statement appeared to reject outside influence, saying Gambia had the right to implement its own laws, and suggested more executions would take place.
"All sentences as prescribed by law will be carried out to the letter including the death penalty," it added.
Gambia lures British sun-seeking tourists to its beach resorts but Jammeh has frequently been criticized for his rights record since he seized power in a 1994 coup.
Amnesty International said that the executions took place last week. An umbrella group calling itself Civil Society Associations Gambia (CSAG) said it believed they were only made public due to the international debate over the issue.
Following the confirmation of the executions, Ousainou Darboe, a leading opposition leader, and CSAG appealed for targeted international sanctions to be imposed on Jammeh.
"This is not the first time - this has been going on too long. The abuses in the country are outrageous but nobody seems to notice," CSAG chairman Banka Manneh told Reuters.
"We want targeted sanctions. Jammeh's (foreign) help must stop ... We are willing to fight this fight but we cannot do it without some help from the international community."
(Additional reporting and writing by David Lewis; Editing by Michael Roddy)