By Nelson Manneh
A staff of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) said members of the special operation unit were the ‘Jungulers’ of the agency.
Born on 6th July 1979 in Banjul, Basiru Sey is a member of the Special Operations Unit (SOU) that tortured detainees. He joined the Gambia National Army in 2001, but was later deployed to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Testifying before the Truth Commission on Thursday 14th January, 2021, Sey said Lamin Darboe was the Officer Commanding the Unit.
“I sat for a long time before joining the security. I respected my work and took it seriously and used to report very early,” Sey said.
On whether most of their operations were carried out in the evenings at the NIA, Sey said sometimes they were called by their seniors to report back to work after normal working hours and they would stay for about 5 hours. He said he doesn’t know how others were treated, but the SOU was treated well, saying they were treated like special people and other officers at the NIA used to gossip about them because of the seriousness of the job they were doing.
Witness Sey said their vehicle was tinted and they did not mingle with any other units within the NIA. He said they did not put anyone in their vehicle other than their men.
The witness confessed that the SOU comprised the ‘Jungulers’- (former president’s hit squad) of the Agency, saying their unit was responsible for arresting high profile Officers within the government. Sey said if someone was not cooperating with the investigations either by giving statements, they would be instructed to give the person a VIP treatment, which means beating the individual by using hose pipes.
“Mr. Alieu Sumareh alias Tamayi, used to advise me not to take part in any of the beatings because he (Sumareh) was the only member of our team who did not use to participate in torturing people at the NIA,” he said.
Mr. Sey said Lamin Darboe, Alieu Sumareh, Tamba Masireh, Babucarr Sallah, Alagie Morr amongst others comprised the SOU.
“When I was newly deployed to the NIA, I did not know what was happening there, but I later regretted joining that Unit and did not even know why they took me there,” Sey said.
Witness Sey said after they completed their military commando training, they were supposed to be a Special Operations Unit operating on emergency basis. However, their superiors later changed that idea and decided to deploy some of his colleagues to Fajara Yundum Barracks, and State Guard respectively. He said ‘Jungulers’ like Momodou Jarju alias Rambo, Alieu Jeng, Nfansu Nyabally, Michael Jatta and others were all his classmates during the Commando Training.
“All the 24 Intake of the ‘Jungulers’ were my classmates, we trained together,” he disclosed.
Mr. Sey told the Commission that he didn’t find Alagie Morr and Lamin Senghore alias Assasin when he joined the SOU at the NIA in 2005.
“When I newly went to the NIA, I was told that whatever happened there is confidential and we are there for the big man (former President),” he said.
In the case of Amadou Joko Sowe, the witness said their OC, Lamin Darboe, informed them that there were some money doublers at Coastal Road and Brusubi roundabout respectively while one of them was coming from abroad. He said himself, Alasan Baldeh, Tamayi, Lamin Darboe were part of this operation and they first apprehended Abbas Jarju.
“Lamin Darboe told me that once I set my eyes on Abass Jarju, I must take him along and he should not give me an excuse,” he said.
At this juncture, Lead Counsel Faal asked the witness whether they had a warrant to arrest Abass. The witness responded in the positive, adding that he showed Jarju his arrest warrant and told him that he was from the Office of the President and he was needed at their office-NIA.
On how Amadou Joko Sowe was treated, Sey said Sowe was not prepared to reveal where the materials were. He said he told him to squat and later stretched him by holding his hands and legs and beat him. He said Lamin Darboe, Alasan Baldeh, Eko, Gibril Kanyi and Basiru Sey beat Sowe. He was however quick to add that the place where they tortured Joko was not the proper place designated for torturing because if they want to handle anyone seriously, they used to take the person to the Investigation Unit where there was enough space to torture people.
The witness said the investigation unit has a big hall painted red, with handcuffs on the wall. Sey said initially, the operation unit did not have confidence in him because he was not participating on the tortures. He said he was part of the NIA operation unit who tortured Joko Sowe. He said they seriously tortured him because he was not ready to talk.
The witness said anytime the operation unit dealt with someone arrested and the person did not comply, the NIA would invite the ‘Jungulers’ who would take the person to the investigation unit. He said whenever Nuha Badjie entered the NIA premises; they would know that it would not be easy. He said there was no operation that took place at the NIA without the director general’s knowledge.
“There is nobody who will torture someone at the NIA without order and directive from the director general” he said.
The witness said in most cases at the NIA, if the officers wanted a detainee to give them information and s/he refused, the individual would be tortured seriously. He alleged that Tamba Mansireh and Babucarr Sallah were called twice at the NIA because they normally arrest people and collect money from them.
“Tamba and Bubacarr arrest and collect money from even night workers,” Sey said.
Sey said it was a routine for Tamba and Babucarr to go out at night, arrest people and collect money from them. He said there was a man who was living in Fajikunda who was accused of money doubling. He said they went there and arrested him together with his daughters. He said when they reached the NIA headquarters in Banjul with the Fajikunda man, they seriously tortured him because he was not ready to comply.
Testifying about Camara, the cattle dealer, Sey said Camara was given Yahya Jammeh’s cattle but he did not know whether Camara was asked to sell them and submit the money. He said Camara was not directly dealing with Yahya Jammeh but when they went to arrest him, he resisted and was later given the normal VIP treatment.
The witness said the first day he was deployed to the NIA SOU, he regretted joining the unit because he never tortured anybody in the military until when he joined the NIA and he started to torture people. Sey apologized for the crimes he committed whilst he was at the NIA special operation unit, saying he regretted what he did and was seeking forgiveness.
Sey also said the director general of NIA was aware of all the activities that took place at the NIA because there was a logbook where the names of people who entered the NIA premises were registered and the director general always have access to that logbook.