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16.08.2005 General News

Govt orders investigations into Gambian killings

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Accra, Aug. 16, GNA - Ghana has requested a full-scale investigation into the killing of eight persons believed to be Ghanaians off the shores of the Gambia.

The number is part of 56 West Africans, comprising 42 Ghanaians, 10 Nigerians, two Senegalese, a half Ghanaian/Ivorian woman and a Togolese, who had been made to believe that there was a ship on the high seas off The Gambian coast to transport them to Europe.

The investigations into the bizarre killings have been endorsed by The Gambian Government, which is providing support to facilitate the process to reach the bottom of the matter.

Briefing the media in Accra Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said more than 51 persons were still unaccounted for.

The briefing follows the visit of a high-powered fact-finding delegation led by the Foreign Minister on the orders of President John Agyekum Kufuor.

The delegation met President Yahya Jammeh, held a series of meetings, with the Ghana Mission, The Gambian Foreign Minister, Mr Bala Gaye, Inspector-General of Police, Mr B. Njie and Head of the National Investigation Agency, Mr Baba Marena.

Nana Akufo-Addo said the Ghanaian community in The Gambia was highly relieved and grateful for the prompt response of government to their plight.

"This is because they have been living in fear since the killings and targeted arrests that followed," Nana Akufo-Addo said. "Our mission in Dakar has been instructed to deepen the relationship with the (Ghanaian) community by regular exchange of information and visits."

He noted that as part of the goodwill, The Gambian authorities made available to the Ghanaian delegation all materials relevant for the elucidation of the matter, including statements taken from those arrested.

"We are to receive copies of the post-mortem reports, when they are ready," Nana Akufo-Addo said.

He said Mr Martin Kyere, who initially fled to Dakar, Senegal, had been brought to Accra to assist in the investigations. Nana Akufo-Addo said the Ministry had some other information, which is now being examined. "At the appropriate time we shall inform the public about the outcome of these investigations."

He explained that the 56 persons had been charged sums ranging from 1,300 Euros to 1,500 Euros, which was paid to a Ghanaian called Kofie, alias Connection Man.

The journey began from Saly-Mbour in Thies Region of Senegal on Friday, July 22, 2005 at about 1745 hours to where the ship was to be. "They could, however, not find the ship, and to their surprise and disappointment they were brought to the Barra Beach in The Gambia," Nana Akufo-Addo said.

He said the agents of the organiser, who were on the canoe with the group, told them later that they were going to look for the American captain of the ship called Patrick Taylor and they should remain on board the canoe until they returned.

Three Ghanaians on the canoe became suspicious as the agents took their luggage with them. They, therefore, decided to leave the canoe to find out what was really happening.

Nana Akufo-Addo said while the three approached the shores uniformed Gambian officials arrested them but they managed to escape. During the period, news broke out that eight bodies had been discovered between Brufut and Tanji, near Ghana Town, and that The Gambian Police had invited the elders of Ghana Town to identify the bodies.

The leaders said they had neither seen nor met any of them before. But from the pictures of the dead bodies given to the delegation, it would seem that some of the unfortunate people were part of those ferried to The Gambia by the canoe.

Nana Akufo-Addo said The Gambian Foreign Minister revealed that 112 people of many nationalities had been detained in connection with the killings. They had been interrogated and released, and only a few Guineans were still in police cells.

The leaders of a larger group who were last seen in the company of Gambian security officials have vanished. Other members of the Government delegation we re Ghana's Ambassador to Senegal, Fred Laryea, currently accredited to The Gambia; Mr David Asante Apeatu, Commissioner of the Police CID Unit, Superintendent Frank Kwofie, Deputy Head of Ghana Unit of Interpol and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Banjul.