Thomas Cook is to fly almost 1,000 UK customers out of the Gambia, following a change in Foreign Office advice due to unrest in the country.

The west African nation has become a political battleground following presidential elections last month, with incumbent leader Yahya Jammeh unwilling to hand over power to the winner in the polls, Adama Barrow.

In response, the UK Foreign Office (FCO) are now advising against all but essential travel to the Gambia, citing the “deteriorating political situation and potential military intervention following the presidential elections on 1 December”.

In the latest of a series of attempts to retain power, a 90-day state of emergency was declared by Jammeh on Tuesday, two days before he is due to leave office.

In a televised announcement he said he was making the order “to prevent a constitutional crisis and power vacuum”, and that security forces were instructed to “maintain absolute peace, law and order”.

Thousands of Gambians have reportedly been leaving the country in fear of the situation deteriorating. “They’re worried there might be war,” said one Gambian immigration official.

As well as implementing their contingency plan to bring all 985 UK customers they currently have on holiday in the Gambia home, Thomas Cook have also cancelled all flights to the Gambia until Friday 20 January.

They will be running four additional flights on Wednesday 18 January and are contacting approximately 2,500 of their flight-only customers in the Gambia, to give them the option of early flights to the UK.

In a statement, they said: “We are dispatching a special assistance team with our first flight from the UK to provide additional support at Banjul airport for our customers. Our colleagues on the ground in the Gambia will proactively contact all customers on holiday with us as soon as possible to prepare for return to the UK.”

The FCO have advised tourists: “The potential for military intervention and civil disturbance is high and could result in Banjul International Airport being closed at short notice.

“You should follow events closely, take extra care, keep in regular contact with your tour operator and airline and continue to monitor travel advice and social media updates in case tensions rise as the current political deadlock continues.”