‘In the Case of Cherno Njie and Papa Faal versus U.S federal Prosecutors. Papa Faal admits involvement in coup plot, admits shipment of weapons and being in the Gambia or surroundings. Cherno Njie did not also dispute charges as yet. How did the U.S prosecutors get access to the information leading to the charges? Was the information supplied by the Jammeh administration from the supposed laptop seized from insurgents.’
Washington — Federal prosecutors have charged two U.S. men in connection with a violent failed coup attempt against the government of Gambia last month in an alleged conspiracy that included an undisclosed number of other Americans.
Cherno Njie, 57, a U.S. citizen of Gambian descent living in Texas, and Papa Faal, 46, a citizen of both the U.S. and Gambia living in Minnesota, were named in a unusual criminal complaint made public Monday that outlined a months-long conspiracy in which firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, were allegedly shipped to the West African nation for use in the failed overthrow.
Several of the assailants died in the Dec. 30 failed assault on the residence of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. It was not immediately clear how many were killed and whether the dead included other Americans.
In a video posted on the Gambian government’s website, Jammeh said the assault was carried out by “dissidents” based in Germany, the U.S. and Great Britain.
Jammeh was photographed next to a flatbed truck that displayed an array of firearms reportedly seized in the attack.
“I live for the Gambia,” Jammeh said. “I die for the Gambia.”
Njie, an Austin businessman, is described in federal court documents as the financier and leader of the alleged conspiracy who was expected to serve as the “interim leader” of the government had the coup succeeded.
Faal, of Brooklyn Center, Minn., reportedly told federal investigators following his arrest that he had served in both the U.S. Air Force and Army, before his Army discharge in 2012. He joined the coup attempt, according to court documents, because he had become “disenchanted by the way the president was rigging elections and because of his concerns with the plight of the Gambian people.”
Both suspects are charged with conspiring to violate the Neutrality Act for their alleged actions against a friendly nation and conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence. The two made brief, separate court appearances Monday. Njie did not challenge his detention in a Baltimore federal court. He will be moved to Minneapolis where the case will be prosecuted, federal officials said. A similar hearing was held for Faal in Minneapolis.
“These defendants stand accused of conspiring to carry out the violent overthrow of a foreign government, in violation of U.S. law,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The United States strongly condemns such conspiracies. With these serious charges, the United States is committed to holding them fully responsible for their actions.”
Up to a dozen members of the conspiracy, according to court documents, entered Gambia earlier this year, expecting that others, including a battalion of sympathetic Gambian soldiers, would join their side. Before their departures, which occurred between August and October, Faal and other conspirators allegedly purchased the firearms and shipped them to Gambia. The group also acquired night-vision goggles, body armor, ammunition, black military-style uniform pants, boots and other equipment.
An estimated 30 firearms were shipped to Gambia, some of them hidden in 50-gallon barrels containing clothing, the court documents stated.
“Faal admitted he knew shipping the guns was illegal, but was more concerned with carrying out the coup,” the documents stated.
On Dec. 30, according to the complaint, Faal and other conspirators allegedly gathered in the woods near the home of the Gambian president in Banjul where they split into two teams.
At that time, prosecutors allege that Njie was waiting at a secure location until the teams took control of the home. The teams, however, were allegedly routed by heavy fire from guard towers when they approached, resulting in the deaths of several conspirators.
Faal and Njie fled, returning to the U.S., where they were arrested.