The Malta Independent 24 August 2019, Saturday

Updated (5): Two AFM soldiers arrested in connection with murder of migrant at Hal Far

Saturday, 18 May 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 4 months ago

Two AFM soldiers have been identified and have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the drive-by killing of an Ivorian migrant in Hal Far last month, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

The Malta Independent is not publishing the names or photos of the persons accused as they have not been charged in court yet.

Lassana Cisse, a 42-year-old from Ivory Coast, was brutally killed on 6 April as he was walking along a road between Birzebbuga and the Hal Far Open Centre, where he would visit friends to see that they were adjusting to life in Malta. Two other men, a 22-year-old from Guinea and a Gambian 28-year-old, were also shot, but have since recovered.

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One of the soldiers was arrested on Friday evening and was thoroughly questioned about the incident.  Sources indicated that the soldier confessed throughout the night to being involved in both this incident and a hit-and-run incident on the same road last February, when a 17-year-old migrant from Chad was injured.

He confessed however that it was not him who discharged the firearms at Cisse and the two other migrants, pointing the police in the direction of a second soldier, with police subsequently arresting this second soldier on Saturday, sources said.

It is believed to be the first racially-motivated murder in Malta, with sources close to the investigation saying that one of the accused had admitted to targeting the migrants “just because they were black".

Commenting via his Twitter account, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked the police for “solving this important case of the cold blooded murder of an Ivorian immigrant. The 2 persons who were arrested do not represent the ethos of the Armed Forces of Malta, who are doing very important work for our society.

“There is an ongoing internal investigation along with other security services, to determine whether these are isolated, rogue individuals, or part of something wider. The conclusion of this investigation shows that Malta is a safe place for everyone, and it should remain so.

“Words of hatred and division have no place in our society. It is a strong signal to all those who spread hate speech. There are consequences to spreading such ill placed sentiments. We remain steadfast in our call for unity among the Maltese and all those who live in Malta”, the PM said.

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia also condemned "hate crime, racially motivated violence and racial discrimination in all its forms. We demand an urgent, independent, transparent and thorough investigation," he wrote on Twitter. This is not the Malta we want. Much work is to be done to make Malta a truly safe place. Well done to the Malta police force for their sterling work.

 

 

 

A source close to the investigation said that the police had been investigating the crime since day one, and had utilised CCTV footage from the area which then led to the identification of the car used and to it being traced back to the two suspects.

After the murder, the police had launched a manhunt and were on the lookout for a white Toyota Starlet that was believed to have been used in the drive-by shooting. It was believed that the shots were fired from the passenger side. Sources close to the investigation indicated that the murder weapon had also been found and was registered to one of the suspects.

An investigation is now taking place within the Armed Forces to ascertain the relationship between the two suspects and whether they could be part of a wider circle of people within the AFM.

Sources familiar with the area said the road, Triq il-Gebel, is dark and deserted and is often used by migrants going to and from the open centre in Hal Far.

A few weeks ago concern had been raised by director of the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Ahmed Bugre, who had told The Malta Independent that “there has been no news whatsoever regarding the case of Lassana Cisse.”

Bugre had said that the lack of news almost a month later was troubling, adding that migrants were unsure whether they should be afraid or what they should say to someone. He noted that many migrants living in Hal Far found it ‘difficult’ to walk down that street.

“This is people’s fear being manifested,” he had said.

On 27 April, a number of people gathered on the site where Cisse had been killed, calling for justice.

Sixty-four organisations and around 100 activists gathered in memory of the 44-year old man, including President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.

NGOs praise work of police; urge authorities to do all they can to prevent hate crime

In a statement, three NGOs praised the work of the police force in bringing finding those responsible and bringing them to justice.

"We are both relieved and angered to receive news of the arrest of a suspect for the murder and attack... and trust that the second will be captured as soon as possible," Aditus, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Integra Foundation said in a statement issued after the breaking of the news.

"Lassana was specifically targeted and murdered in cold blood because of his colour. This was a racially motivated hate crime, an act of violence that must send a shudder through the body of every one of us. We hope that this arrest will bring some peace of mind to the family of Lassana, and also to Mohamed and Ibrahim, the two survivors who are still coming to terms with what happened to them, and who may never recover from this vicious attack." 

They said hate festers and betrays us all, including the perpetrators of this despicable and senseless act of violence.

"We urge the authorities, and everyone, to do everything they can to prevent hate crime now and in the future."

UNHCR “deeply perturbed” by murder’s racial motivation

In a statement, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Malta commended the work of the police force for its investigation and apprehension of the alleged perpetrators in the case of the murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane, the injuring of two other victims in the same attack and the hit-and-run incident on the same road last February.

“UNHCR is deeply perturbed by the news reports confirming that the murder was in fact racially motivated.”

The Armed Forces of Malta has rescued and continues to save the lives of thousands of refugees and migrants at sea. A thorough investigation and review is required to root out any rogue elements within the AFM, they said.

“We stand ready to engage with the local authorities on this issue.”

Kahin Ismail, UNHCR Representative to Malta said: “It is a relief for refugees and migrants living in the locality as well as for the community that the alleged culprits are arrested. We appreciate Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister Michael Farrugia for reminding the public that hate has no place in Malta, and hope that maximum efforts will be made to combat racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.”

"We hope this case is not being used and spun to shut up Maltese who have always fought for our country" - MPM

In a statement, Moviment Patrijotti Maltin condemned "without reservations" the murder of Cisse, saying no killing is ever justified no matter the motivation.

They said that they hoped that Maltese media recognises the need to set aside “extra sensationalism” as this never brought about positive things.

“It is a curious fact that unfounded and premature doubts that were spread by the media a few hours after the murder have consolidated themselves now, a few days before such an important election for the Maltese people.  We hope that this case is not being used and spun to shut the mouths of Maltese who have always fought in favour of our country’s cause in the most civil and democratic manner”, the party said in a statement.

Shocking news - Cassola

The implication of two members of the armed forces of Malta in the killing of Lassana and the injury of two other human beings comes as shocking news to all of us, independent candidate Arnold Cassola said.

Bad apples exist everywhere and anytime, but having two soldiers -whose mission is to protect all of us- consciously involved in hate actions and killings is really too much to digest.

Those politicians who have fanned racial hatred through their white supremacy theories or apartheid proposals -like separate public buses for non-white people-  have a lot to answer for.

 

 

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