Gay men and lesbians must leave the country within 24 hours or face “serious consequences,” the President of Gambia said on Thursday.

President Yahya Jammeh turned on homosexuals and foreigners in an address at a victory celebration rally in Tallinding.

The Daily Observer reported that the President had issued:

“An ultimatum to homosexuals, drug dealers, thieves and other criminals, to leave The Gambia or face serious consequences if caught.

“The President equally warned all those who harbour such individuals to kick them out of their compounds, noting that a mass patrol will be conducted on the instructions of the IGP and the director of the Gambia Immigration Department to weed bad elements in society.

“Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful.” he said.

“We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country.”

“He stated that a law is in place regarding this unlawful acts tougher than the Iranian laws and warned those involve in this infamous activities to desist from them.”

President Jammeh also claimed that foreigners are taking the benefits of investment and “all stores belonging to Gambians and rented to forigners would be seized.”

Gambia, a mostly Muslim country of 1.7 million people, punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison.

A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994.

Last year he horrified scientists by announcing that he had developed a “miracle cure” for HIV/AIDS.

Hundreds of Gambians lined up to be “cured” by President Jammeh, who treats his patients by rubbing a mysterious herbal paste into their ribcages and then instructing them to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.

The therapy is administered repeatedly over several weeks.

According to Mr Jammeh, AIDS sufferers are cured within “three to thirty days.”

The President announced his alleged cure in January to a gathering of perplexed foreign diplomats.

“Whatever you do there are bound to be skeptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof,” he said.

“Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It is a declaration. I can cure AIDS and I will.”

Government radio and TV addresses publicised the treatment, which Jammeh provides for free.

It has the backing of the Gambian Health Ministry.

Mr Jammeh refuses to disclose the ingredients of his herbal concoction, saying only that the treatment uses seven plants – “three of which are not from Gambia”.

His official website claims that patients have experienced a “marked improvement” in their health as a result of the treatment and scoffs at critics who dispute its efficacy.