Gambian authorities are detaining at least 23 soldiers for allegedly plotting to revolt against the country’s new leader, Adama Barrow, military sources and the opposition say.
The soldiers, seven of whom were first arrested are linked to the country’s ousted authoritarian ruler, Yahya Jammeh, who was flushed out of power by West African forces after losing an election.
An investigation into the plot led to more arrests and the plot leader, whose identity is yet to be released escape the country and suspected to be in hiding in a neighboring country.
“What they are doing is to create an imbalance and purge the army of anyone they believe was close to the former government without following due process,” said opposition activist, Lamin Tamba.
“No reasons have been given by the government for detaining these soldiers and they have not been charged or arraigned before a military tribunal, whatsoever. This is political.”
The soldiers are accused of also plotting to assassinate Mr. Barrow. Among those detained are a cousin and a nephew of Mr. Jammeh, whose families say they have committed no crime.
LCpl. Samboujang Bojang, one of the soldiers arrested accused the country’s intelligence bureau of torture and has been held since July. His wife has denounced his continued detention without trial.
The soldiers are being detained in various military camps, mostly in Fajara, just less a thousand feet from the temporal presidential compound and in Yundum, close to the country’s only airport.
The country’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Masanneh Kinteh, also dismissed at least seven senior officers, five majors and two captains on charges of suspected espionage on Tuesday.
President Adama Barrow has rolled out a security sector reform with the help of the United Nations. It is his first attempt since coming to power to gain control of the army, which has been filled with Jammeh’s loyalists.