By Lamin Cham
Bodies suspected of being those of former State Guard Commander Lamin Sanneh and other alleged attackers on State House on 30th December, 2014 were exhumed by police crime and forensic department on Friday.
The bodies of the trio, Lamin Sanneh, Njaga Jagne and Alhagie Yaya Niass were pulled out of an unmarked grave beneath a swampy sandy hill at Tintiba, near the River Gambia, North West of Bwiam. The area, according to senior security sources, was also secretly used as a firing range for heavy weapons by the previous regime.
Sanneh and Co. were part of a group of Gambian dissidents who flew in from the US and other places with a plan to overthrow former president Yahya Jammeh by use of force.
According to a government statement at the time, the trio died in a gun battle at or around the State House where their attempt was foiled by loyal troops. A few who escaped and their collaborators in the US were prosecuted by the American authorities for offenses relating to the incident.
However, according to police PRO Foday Conta, their bodies were never released to the public or their families but were instead kept and guarded at the mortuary until not long ago when they were secretly buried in the bush. He said the graves were discovered through information obtained from suspected ‘Junglers’ currently in detention. He disclosed that the reason for exhuming the bodies is for proper investigation to be made on them and identification made before handing over the bodies to the families.
It took the experts over three hours to complete the exhumation, a laborious and meticulous exercise marked by emotions and a somber mood as the gruesome sights of the three advancedly decomposed bodies became clear.
Family members of the deceased present at the scene made emotional remarks about their feelings. Mamour Malick Jagne who represented Njaga Jagne’s family said his main interest in this case and another cases is for the exact truth to be established and not fiction or rumours so that all Gambians will know what happened and then appropriate actions taken. “This is a very difficult moment for the whole of The Gambia where everyone is one family. What has happened in The Gambia over the past 22 years should serve as a lesson to all Gambians to try and ensure that a similar thing never happens again. The only way to avoid these types of things is to reform and strengthen institutions and not to worship a human being,” he said.
Another relative Malleh Jagne who was arrested and later released because of relations with the late Njaga, said the day was a very sad one even though the incident happened nearly two years ago. He described Njaga as a man who laid his life to rescue the Gambia.
Momodou B.E Njie, a former soldier, and an uncle to Lamin Sanneh, said he brought up the former commander and knew him to be a good soldier. He described the late Sanneh as a martyr who came to rescue The Gambia from the tyranny that has affected all. “I want the new government to be alerted to the fact that threats of the former regime are still here and they must confront it,” he said.