Gambian soldier names ex-president in reporter’s 2004 murder

Yahya Jammeh's 22-year rule as president of The Gambia [File: Joe Penney/Reuters]

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An army officer in The Gambia has accused former President Yahya Jammeh of ordering the 2004 murder of journalist Deyda Hydara, and admitted he was involved in the killing.

Hydara, who was editor and co-founder of the independent The Point daily and a correspondent for AFP news agency and Journalists Without Borders (RSF), was killed by unidentified gunmen in his car on the outskirts of the capital, Banjul, in December 2004.

“We opened fire, myself, Alieu Jen and Sana Manjang,” Lieutenant Malick Jatta said at the public hearing before a truth commission on Monday, naming two other military officers in Hydara’s killing.

“Our commander, Captain Tumbul Tamba was communicating to the former president, Yahya Jammeh, on the phone during the operation. He saying to him, ‘Yes Sir, Your Excellency,'” he said.

Jatta told the commission his commanding officer later gave him an envelope containing dollars, which he said was a “sign of appreciation from the big man”, a reference to Jammeh.

“I would be certain that it was from the former president. Tumbul had no source of gathering dollars,” he said.

Jatta said one of the cars used during the assassination was from Jammeh’s fleet and normally parked in the autocrat’s former garage in Kanifing outside Banjul.

He said they ambushed Hydara and drove off, but without being told their victim’s name. The journalist was in a car with two women at the time he was shot.

Jammeh had said in an interview on Gambian state television that the government had “no stake” in the killing. He hinted that Hydara’s love life had led to the murder.

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