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Alleged Casamance rebels trial opens military officer, Alkalo testify

Dec 1, 2010, 12:26 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah & Malamin Conteh

The prosecution led by the Director of Special Litigations at the Attorney General’s Chambers, Daniel O Kulo, opened its case yesterday at the special criminal court in Banjul involving 17-armed men believed to be rebels from the southern Senegalese region of Casamance.

The accused persons are facing a two-count indictment of unlawful possession of arms of war and ammunitions and illegal entry into the Republic of the Gambia without valid documents.

They all pleaded not guilty to new charges, which were read to them in a language they claimed to have understood. Lt Abdou Jatta, a military officer, attached to the first infantry battalion, testified as the second prosecution witness, and told the court how the suspected Casamance rebels’ hidden weapons and ammunitions were discovered during their operation to arrest them.

Lt Jatta adduced that it happened on 2nd October 2010 at around 1 pm, when he was called by his superior, Lt Col. PS Gomez, who said he got information from the company commander at the border.

“Lt Col PS Gomez told me that he was told by the company commander at the border that the rebels from Casamance are fighting, and we should be there together with other soldiers,” he added.

“We arrived at Bullock, and then to Bajana where the actual scene was, and we met with other soldiers on the highway and others in the bushes,” Jatta told the court.

According to the witness, at the scene, they were informed that one of the rebels was wounded, and is at a shop in Bullock, further adducing that the said rebel attempted to run away after seeing the military coming, and was apprehended by one of the soldiers.

“A search was conducted on him and a mobile phone without a SIM card and battery was found on the suspect. I recognised the 1st accused Yusupha Ceesay.”

He said that, on the first day, they arrested 12 rebels, and have a list of their names, including Abdou Badjie, Hatab Jatta, Sang Sambou, Basiru Jammeh, Yusupha Ceesay, Ebrima Badjie, Modou Lamin Badjie, Ebrima Jarju, Mafugi Jarju, and Saikou Jammeh.

He said the suspects were interrogated on why they were in the territory of The Gambia with arms, and they said they had thrown away their weapons before entering the Gambia.

Further asked where they threw their weapons, they said in the rice fields, the witness told the court.

He said Abdou Badjie and Basiru Jammeh led them to where they threw their rifles, and they discovered the weapons some 150 meters away from the trans-Gambia highway, between the villages of Bullock and Bajana in the territory of the Gambia.

According to Lt. Jatta, a lot of weapons were seized from the rebels, including RPG rifles and shells, live ammunition, anti-personnel mines, grenades, hunting cartridges, and AK 47 rifles.

He said these weapons were discovered on 2nd October 2010, adding that the weapons were taken to One Infantry Battalion, while the suspects were taken to the NIA office.

Dozens of photos of the discovered arms and ammunitions, and photos of the first 12 arrested suspects were all admitted and marked as exhibits in court.

Bullock Alkalo Testifies

Ansumana Bojang, the alkalo (village head) of Bullock village in Foni Brefet district in the West Coast Region, also testified as a prosecution witness, and told the court that he could remember what happened in October 2010, when he was informed that there was a fight between two rebel fractions in Casamance.

“Around 1 o’clock I went around one compound very close to Bajana village, but which is part of Bullock,” the village head told the court.

He said he later observed a military presence with vehicles. “I came to know that these were suspects arrested around a rice field in Bajana, and I saw them in vehicles heading to Bullock checkpoint with soldiers on board.”   

He said the soldiers had guns, but he was not able to talk to anyone.

However, he was told that the accused persons were arrested at Bajana,Bojang said, adding that he did not know any of the accused persons named.