Commonwealth report warns of security threats posed by Saudi-trained extremists, ‘back-way’ returnees

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By Sainey Darboe

Following a visit to The Gambia, a commonwealth team has concluded that the country still stands in peril of infiltration by Saudi-trained extremists and Jihadists in the sub-region, as well as return of failed migrants.
The report which will receive its public release on 16 April at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, and made available to The Standard concludes:

“Relations between the Council and current government were described as ‘very, very good,’ and the main conduit for this is the President’s religious affairs advisor. One of the main areas of mutual concern expressed between the government and Council was the need to keep Gambia free of extremism. There have been reports of two Gambians fighting for the Islamic State in the Levant, and we heard concerns about people being trained in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and returning to promote a more extreme version of Islam.

“We did not see or hear any evidence of this, and Imam Touray believes the country is ‘free from bad elements,’ although the fact that leaders such as Imam Touray have studied in Saudi Arabia may lead people to make assumptions. Having said this, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the sub-region does have extremist groups within it that could appear in The Gambia, and the potential return of a large number of failed migrants will need to be managed with care”.

The Commission was led by Nyameko Barney Pityana, former Chair of the South African Human Rights Commission. The other Commissioners were Zeinab Badawi, broadcaster and Chair of the Royal African Society, and Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, former chair of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission. The Commissioners were supported by David White, Director of the London Office of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.