Gambia: SECRET GRAVES UNCOVERED Remains of state house attackers exhumed

Forensic experts taking out theremains in the presence of investigators

Gambian Police investigators and forensic experts on Friday, 31 March 2017, exhumed remains of December 30th attackers at Dumbuto Firing Range in Tintiba Forest, North West Foni near Bwiam. A combined security team including police investigators, military police, plain clothes officers, fire rescue workers, military intelligence officers and families of the victims formed a convoy. The convoy included two suspects who directed the team of investigators to sites where corpses of victims who were allegedly murdered while in custody were buried.

By Mustapha Jallow

The three corpses, according to investigators are the remains of former Lieutenant Colonel Lamin Sanneh of the Gambia Armed Forces who was commander of the State Guards Battalion, retired Captain Njagga Jagne of the US Army and Alhagie Nyass, a former personnel of the defunct Gambia National Gendarmerie.

These 30th December attackers were buried in a firing Range. Investigators say that it was created by the former president Jammeh for his ‘special assassination team’. Upon arrival and identification of the site where the remains were buried the forensic experts and their assistants soon started their work of exhuming the remains. They quickly put on their protective gears and used special digging tools to exhume the bodies. Fumigation was applied throughout the process of digging and taking out the remains which appeared fresh. According to an officer, the bodies appear fresh because they were embalmed.

The two suspects who have claimed to have been burying the corpses are staff sergeant Amadou Badjie and Omar aka Oyai Jallow. They were also seen been handcuffed and put into a white pickup of the military police which was heavily guarded. It was observed that some state guards soldiers were seen been heavily armed with AK.47 securing where the purported victims were buried.

Lt Colonel Omar B. Bojang, the GAF PRO and Inspector Foday Conta, the police spokesperson were responsible for the media. Inspector Conta told local press that the place where the remains were being exhumed is a firing Range which was created by the former regime and that the place is known to few members of the armed forces.

He assured that after exhumation of the late soldiers, investigators will escort the remains to the Mortuary at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul, where forensic experts will conduct medical examination so as to identify them and also to ascertain what actually caused their death. They will later handover the remains to their families for a befitting burial.

‘‘We are doing our investigation professionally in which the alleged Jungulars of the former regime showed us the site which is unknown to me and most of the senior GAF officers,’’ he remarked.

The family members present were emotional as they watched the remains of their loved ones being exhumed. Some shed tears while others could be seen to show red eyes.

Mamudou Jagne, a cousin of late Njagga Jagne, said this is a difficult moment for the country and urged the new government to establish facts based on scientific evidence. He called on the government to establish institutions to look into such inhuman acts and for them to enact laws that will prohibit such evil acts. “We have to build the institutions, laws, procedures and processes that will make it impossible for things like this to happen,” he said.

The late Lt. Col. Sanneh’s uncle Mr. Njie still reckons that the threat of former president Jammeh is lingering but he is hopeful that the new government will do something about it.

Mamudou Njie who is a relative of Alhagie Jaja Nyass said he and most of their relatives were also subjected to arrest and detention at the NIA for several months and there valuable articles were taken away from them. While the investigators were exhuming, he said he recognized their loved one Njaga Nyass. He demands for justice to be done.

The panel of investigators continue to search for the secret graves of Gambian citizens who were murdered in the course of 22 years rule of former president Jammeh.

A day before, the investigators were first led to a secret grave in the forest of Santanba in Foni Kansala but this was unsuccessful as the suspects could recollect the exact spot.

Earlier on Thursday, morning of 30 March, upon arrival at the said Santanba forest in the west of Bwiam, one of the suspects staff Sergeant Amadou Badjie, was again questioned by police investigators and he told them that while he was at his home in Foni, he received a phone from one Major Nuha Badjie at night, who asked him to report immediately but he quickly responded to him (Nuha) that he did not have a vehicle. He said he later used a commercial vehicle and when he got to him he was given two bodies to bury.

The suspect told the police that it was on a Sunday late at night, when they drove to the forest to bury the bodies. ‘‘We came here to bury them, if I did not forget and it’s here where we buried them,’’ he disclosed. The suspect was seen pointing to the spot for the investigators and then the forensic experts started digging the ground.

Armed soldiers could be also seen been deployed to mount the places and another suspect named Oyai Jallow was brought up to where he was being escorted into the forest of Santanba to identify the secret graves.

After a thorough search, police spokesperson, Inspector Foday Conta revealed that suspects had identified some places where they buried these people and they will continue searching until justice is served for the families of these victims.  “As you can see, we were led here by the suspects themselves who took part in the burial and went around with the suspects to search other areas but things went unsuccessful and notwithstanding, we’re not discouraged as we are continuing on our efforts to search for the victims because I think it’s fair for the family members to have access to the remains of their beloved relatives. We believe that they were buried at the forest of Santanba and we will search for them and bring the perpetrators to book,” he disclosed.

PRO Conta added that suspects told them that the persons whom they have buried there are: A member of the Gambia Armed Forces, Lance Corporal Tumani Jallow and one businessman Abdoulie aka Abdou Gaye. Abdou Gaye before he got murdered, was picked up at his shop in Kanifing South by a group of men in plain clothes and taken to National Intelligence Agency headquarters in Banjul on Tuesday, 20 September, 2016.

Since then, the 52 year old has never been seen by his family members until recently police investigators brought to light by revealing to them that their loved was killed by the former regime.

Conta said that the reason why they are transparent is because they want the whole nation to see what’s happening or what has actually taken place during the last 22 years of former Jammeh.

According to one of the investigators, former chief of defence staff Colonel Ndure Cham was also murdered and buried by the same suspects and they are searching for his grave.

Furthermore, military Intelligence within the convoy tipped Foroyaa that another staff Sergeant Musa Johnson, whom he said has planned the capture and execution of Col. Ndure is under arrest and detained at Yundum Barracks and that investigation is still going on into his involvement.

According to a senior military personnel, said to be a close relative of 28 years old Tumani, his nephew was picked up at state house Monday, 18 August, 2016, and taken to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul, where his nephew was since been detained unlawfully and never taken to a court of law.

He said soon after a group of NIA agents and military intelligence escorted Tumani to his resident where a search was conducted.

‘‘My nephew was all along detained at NIA but I later received information from an intelligence agent that Tumani has been murdered. Then that was the time I started making some demands from the NIA on his whereabouts but they declined to shed light until one of their bosses confirmed to me that my nephew was allegedly killed by one Lieutenant Colonel Nuha Badjie and Major Sanna Manjang,” he narrated.

However, the investigators are continuing their investigation and will exhume any remains uncovered.

The two suspects staff sergeant Badjie and staff sergeant Oyai Jallow were escorted in a convoy back to their detention place. Armed soldiers were left behind in the forest guarding the area.

Forensic experts taking out the remains in the presence of investigators