Police in The Gambia have arrested one of the soldiers accused of killing journalist Deyda Hydara, the Freedom Newspaper can reveal. Malick Jatta, a leading former member of Ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh’s constituted assassin team has been taken into custody. He got arrested few hours ago. Mr. Jatta is helping the police in their investigation. He was taken ill recently. He is yet to fully recover from his illness, sources said. 

Malick Jatta is a native Tujereng. He went into hiding shortly after the fall of dictator Jammeh. He was found chilling at his native village in Tujereng, where he was nabbed and taken into custody.

Former Army Warrant Officer Bai Lowe, a self-confessed member of Jammeh’s assassin team member, now residing in Germany, told Freedom Radio Gambia in an interview that he was present when Journalist Deyda Hydara was killed. He said his co assassin team colleague Sana Manjang first open fire at Hydara, who was dropping off his staff on the night of his paper’s anniversary near the PIU base in Kanifing/Jimpex junction, while Malick Jatta fired the shot that killed Hydara. Two other Point Newspaper staffers Ida Jagne, and Nyan Jobe, sustained injuries during the assassination attack on the late slain Point Founding Editor and Proprietor.

Malick Jatta has participated in so many killings during Jammeh’s rule. He took part in the massacre of the 44 Ghanaian sailors, who were mistaken as rebels. He has been accused of killing one Dawda Nyassi, a resident of Bakoteh, who was placed under state surveillance, following reports that he was among the returnees of the former Charles Taylor fighters in Liberia. Nyassi was lured outside by a friend, and was kidnapped by Jatta and his group. He was murdered in the outskirt of the Banjul international airport.

Below is an excerpt from a bestselling book titled “ THE UNTOLD DICTATOR YAHYA JAMMEH’S STORY” authored by the Editor and publisher of the Freedom Newspaper.

DEYDA HYDARA KILLERS NAMED     

Given Gambia’s precarious security situation, and Jammeh’s bad reputation of allegedly killing folks he suspects of compromising his secrets to the media, some of these sources have pleaded with me to protect their identities. Some are still in the military, while others have left the Force.

Narrating how Jammeh allegedly instructed them to take the life of Deyda Hydara, the soldier alleged: “We were instructed by President Yahya Jammeh on the eve of the Point Newspaper anniversary back in December 16th 2004, to shoot and kill the paper’s Managing Editor Deyda Hydara.  We rode on three taxi vehicles owned by President Jammeh, which was allocated to our team to execute the mission to take the life of Mr. Hydara.  I was part of the team that followed Mr. Hydra, and the other passengers on board his vehicle at the material time. I was accompanied by Major Sana Manjang, Ex Army Colonel Kawsu Camara, alias (Bombaredeh), Malick Jatta, and co while Interior Minister Ousman Sonko coordinated the entire operation.”

The soldier alleged that Mr. Jammeh designed the murder scheme of Hydara in such a way that it would not look like the Government carried out the incident. In doing so, the President allegedly armed them with local a handgun which is not used by the Gambian military. The bullets that killed Hydara are usually used by local hunters. The Gambian military does not use such bullets, or handguns.

“We were armed with double barrel guns. This type of weapon is not part of the Gambia Armed Forces weaponry. The President personally instructed us to use the double barrel guns to avoid the army being linked to the incident. It was a well coordinated operation,” the self confessed soldier alleged.

Dressed in his elegant executive suit that night, while commemorating his paper’s thirteen years anniversary, the friendly; and jovial Mr. Deyda Hydara, was in the midst of Western Diplomats—notably the former United States Ambassador to the Gambia, family members, friends, and colleagues in the media fraternity discussing the challenges, successes, and shortcomings recorded by his paper over the years.

It was a night of rejoice for Deyda and his dynamic team at the Point. It was a night of celebrations. Thirteen years of publication is a major success story for the Point—given the lack of press freedom in the Gambia, coupled with the exorbitant cost associated with running a newspaper in Banjul. Newspapers operate under very difficult circumstances in the Gambia. Most Newspapers derived their revenue mainly from advertisement.  The majority of the advertisers prefer to advertise with media outlets affiliated with the state.

Days before his murder, Mr. Hydara has spoken publicly about his opposition to a new media law passed by the regime. The new law requires media houses and journalists to register with the Media Commission.  The Commission members were mainly Government handpicked appointees. The Commission enjoyed sweeping powers: For example, it is empowered to order for the arrest of journalists, imprisonment, and a worst case scenario—the closure of newspapers.

In Deyda’s own views, he thinks that the Media Commission Bill was an unjust law, which should not be obeyed by any independent minded journalist. He made his views very clear to the authorities including President Jammeh. The late journalist made it abundantly clear that he rather seizes to publish his paper than to allow his fate to be decided by a Commission whose independence and impartiality was highly questionable. Mr. Hydara also believes that it is only the courts that should be given the mandate to make legal pronouncements, or pass judgment on the work of journalists and not a Government constituted Commission whose allegiance lies to the Government.  He was a strong opponent of the Media Commission Bill. This was evident on his numerous editorials and commentaries calling on the regime to repeal the law. Mr. Hydara has consistently argued that the Media Commission bill is a bad law, which should not be allowed to prevail in any democratic dispensation.

Former administration officials, such as Fatou Jahoumpa Ceesay, the erstwhile State House Director of Press, repeatedly complained about Hydara’s “Good Morning Mr. President,” column. The column addresses pertinent daily issues affecting the lives of Gambians. Ms. Fatou Jahumpa Ceesay, is the daughter of the late Banjul politician IM  Garba Jahumpa. She dislikes Hydara’s popular column. She erroneously argued that Mr. Hydara was out to bring President Jammeh’s Government down with what she characterizes as Hydara’s hateful writings against the President. FJC, as she is fondly called in Banjul, went as far as appealing to the Government to stop Mr. Hydara by any means necessary. She said Hydara has been vilifying the President for no just reasons and should be stopped.

Months after FJC’S denunciation of Hydara’s journalistic work, Mr. Hydara was killed. The two other female Point staffers travelling with Hydara at the time of the incident narrowly escaped death when gunmen ambushed Mr. Hydara’s vehicle. Mr. Hydara died on the spot, and the remaining passengers were flown out of the country to neighboring Senegal for medical treatment.

The alleged Jammeh assassin team member explained how Hydara was ambushed by his colleagues: “When Deyda Hydara drove passed Jimpex in Kanifing, near the police Intervention barracks, our assault team then launched an attack on his vehicle. Sana Manjang first open fire at Mr. Hydara at a close range. Wo2 Malick Jatta, the brother of the former Army Chief of Staff Baboucarr Jatta, then fired the shots that killed Mr. Hydara. The Point Boss was killed by Malick Jatta’s shots.”

“The two other point female staffers, who were riding with Hydara at the time, were not our primary target. Mr. Hydara was our target. We were given instructions by the Head of State Yahya Jammeh to murder Hydra. The order was given to one of our ring leaders, and was filtered down to us for execution,” the soldier alleged.

The self confessed alleged Jammeh hit man said he sometimes wonders when he watched Mr. Jammeh on national television lying to the teeth—trying to deny his alleged involvement in the murder of Hydara. He alleged that Mr. Jammeh instructed them to kill Hydara.

After killing Mr. Hydra, the alleged Jammeh assassin team member said they retreated from the scene of the crime, and drove passed the Kanifing garage (Swegam)—next to the President’s warehouse. That’s where we normally park the three yellow Benz taxis the President bought for our men, he said.  The Gambian President owned many warehouses within the Greater Banjul area. He is into rice, cement, oil, sugar, meat, sand, and building materials sale.

“I could vividly remember when he the (President) assigned his former aide Aziz Tamba ( now in prison) to buy the taxi Benzes for him. The whole idea was to be able to blend in among the public. The Head of State said he wants us to be discrete in our operations by blending with the other cab drivers in the streets. The three Benz taxis he bought for us was a mere decoy aimed at preventing the civilian population from noticing those behind the wheels. These are the taxis that we used to carry out murders, abductions, tortures, and arson attacks in the country under the President’s directives,” the self confessed killer alleged.

“Shortly after parking the Benz taxis at the President’s Kanifing warehouse, we boarded our regular patrol vehicles, and headed for our base in Kanilai, the President’s home villa. Upon our arrival at Kampfenda, a village situated at the intersection of Kanilai, we had a brief stop there, where we handed the double barrel guns to one Bobo Manga. Mr. Manga is a local hunter. He also claims to be a Marabout.  He works at the President’s farm,” the soldier further alleged.                    

                         DAWDA NYASSI MURDERED

Dawda Nyassi is a native of Foni Bondali. He was sitting home with his family in Bakoteh, when his friend one Mr. Gibba invited him to meet with him at the Bakoteh “Bantaba.” Mr. Gibba at the time had allegedly conspired with the late Tumbul Tamba, a former army Captain, allegedly heading President Jammeh’s assassin team to help facilitate the abduction of Dawda Nyassi. The agreement that was allegedly reached  between Tumbul and Gibba was that both Gibba and Nyassi will be picked up by the security agents, and while on their way to the execution site situated around the fence of the Banjul International Airport,  Gibba will be dropped somewhere around the Talinding Market.

Mr. Nyassi used to be a former rebel in Liberia. He was among the mercenaries who allegedly participated in the Liberian war. He later returned to the Gambia, where he resided until his secret abduction and murder.  Mr. Nyassi suffered numerous arrests in the hands of the National Intelligence Agency, the (NIA) prior to his killing.

The Gambian leader never trusted Nyassi, our source alleged. And as such, he instructed his alleged assassin team to put him on watch list. There were occasions in the past Mr. Nyassi disappeared from his family, and later released from state custody. No reason was  advanced for his secret abductions.

While Mr. Nyassi and his friend Gibba were chatting at the Bakoteh Bantaba, a tainted Mitsubishi pickup truck with registration number: BJL 1074 arrived. Both men were manhandled and dumped into the waiting truck. One Lamin Jarju, a soldier was the driver of the vehicle at the time.

As the assassin team reached the Talinding Market, Mr. Gibba, who allegedly “setup”  his friend Dawda Nyassi to be abducted and killed by Jammeh’s alleged hit men, was asked to disembark from the vehicle. Captain Tumbul Tamba and his men speeded towards the Banjul International Airport.

Upon arrival at the execution site, which is close to the airport fence, Mr. Dawda Nyass was tied on a tree and shot at a close range by Major Sanna Manjang, RSM Malick Jatta, and one Alieu Jeng, alias Alieu Njie, our source alleged. Mr. Jeng is a native of Banjul.

After killing Nyassi, they dug a hole and buried his remains near a tree. During this time, Captain Tumbul Tamba, Lamin Jarju, and Bai Lowe, both drivers assigned to the alleged assassin team were sitting quietly watching the unfolding execution of Dawda Nyassi.

Mr. Nyassi was taken aback by the developments. He never anticipated that his own friend will set him up for a murder, our source alleged. He was kind of speechless for a minute. He doesn’t know what might have necessitated his abduction and execution.

Looking confused, and worried, Mr. Nyassi could be heard asking his executioners: “What have I done to warrant my killing? What have I done? I left Liberia and return  to my home country, and yet I am not given peace of mind. Why do you have to kill me? Please spare my life.”

Mr. Nyassi’s passionate pleas to be forgiven by the President’s alleged hit men did not stop them from killing him. He was murdered and his remains dumped into a hole next to a tree very close to the airport fence. Tumbul Tamba later reported to Jammeh that the mission to kill Dawda Nyassi has been accomplished, the self confessed Jammeh hit man alleged.

Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai 

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