An ECOMOG military commander said it will “take action” at midnight unless Jammeh steps down before the deadline.
Commander Maiga Mboro said “all the troops are already in place” and some not far from the Gambian border.
Senegalese army General Francis Ndiaye will be heading a team of ECOMOG soldiers from five West African nations for the joint operation that would uphold the outcome of Gambia’s presidential election and the will of its people.
Ndiaye would lead at least 860 troops from Nigeria, 500 Senegalese infantry soldiers and 60 Special Commandos to capture President Jammeh, dead or alive.
Already 11 pilots, 11 crew members and 80 “supporting troops” have been deployed close to the Gambian border. Ghana is also contributing to the force.
Forces loyal to Jammeh have put up fighting positions to secure the capital. President Yahya Jammeh is relying on his loyalists within the Republican National Guard, which includes his elite presidential guard and a special force to keep him in power.
The Gambia’s army is deeply divided and dozens of soldiers have already been arrested. The presidential guard is made up of about 1,000 troops which may not be able to defend Jammeh against a well-trained regional force with superior weapons.
At least 26,000 Gambians, mostly women, and children had crossed into Senegal by Monday evening amid fears that violence could erupt, the UN refugee agency said, citing Senegalese government figures.
President Yahya Jammeh lost last month’s election to opposition rival Adama Barrow. He initially accepted defeat but now refusing to hand over power. Mediation by West African leaders failed to secure a peaceful exit for Jammeh.