Alleged ex-Gambia special unit member arrested in Germany


BERLIN — An alleged former driver for a special armed unit under the Gambia’s former dictator was arrested in Germany on Tuesday on suspicion of involvement in the killings of dissidents in the West African nation, prosecutors said.

The man, identified only as Bai L. in line with German privacy rules, was arrested in Hannover and his apartment was searched, federal prosecutors said. He is suspected of crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder.

Prosecutors say that the suspect was a driver for a unit known as the “patrol team,” or “Junglers,” from December 2003 until December 2006. According to Human Rights Watch, the unit — drawn from the State Guards, who played a key role in protecting then-President Yahya Jammeh — was implicated in serious human rights violations including torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearances and killings.

German prosecutors say that the suspect was involved in three “liquidation” operations — the first in December 2003, when he allegedly drove other members of the unit to the shooting of a lawyer in the capital, Banjul. The lawyer was wounded but survived.

A year later, prosecutors say, members of the unit stopped a dissident journalist’s car in the town of Kanifing with help from Bai L. and fatally shot him. And, probably in 2006, he allegedly drove gunmen who killed an opponent of the president near Banjul airport.

Jammeh ruled the Gambia, a country surrounded by Senegal except for a small Atlantic coastline, for 22 years. He was accused of ordering opponents tortured, jailed and killed. He lost a presidential election and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after initially refusing to step down.

German law allows prosecutors to claim universal jurisdiction in crimes against humanity. Last month, they secured the conviction of a former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s secret police for his involvement in facilitating the torture of prisoners in his homeland.

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