Cherno Njie of Austin, Texas, and Papa Faal of Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota, were among 10 to 12 people who attacked the Gambian presidential palace on December 30. Njie, 57, was a leader and the main financier of the attempt and Faal was among the group of fighters, the arrest affidavit said. Njie had also planned to serve as interim leader once the attack was successful, court records show.
“They hoped they would be able to take over the country… They also expected to be joined by up to 160 members of the local Gambian military who supposedly agreed to participate in the coup,” the affidavit said.
According to court documents, Faal, who has dual US and Gambian citizenship, joined the movement in August. He said Njie, a US citizen of Gambian descent, paid US$4,000 to each of the men participating in the operation. In the following months, Faal and two other unnamed US-based members bought eight M4 semi-automatic rifles and other firearms and had them shipped via cargo ship to the country. Others purchased body armour, night vision goggles, ammunition and military gear.
The group met near State House on December 30 with the hope that the Gambian army soldiers would quickly surrender, court papers allege. Instead, the army fired back, killing some members of the conspiracy.
Court records show the FBI found information in both Faal’s and Njie’s homes that link them to the attack, including handwritten documents that detail the view for the transition of power and a spreadsheet that details items that could be used during the coup.
Both men are charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the US Neutrality Act, which prohibits US citizens from attacking countries that are at peace with the US, and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.
“These defendants stand accused of conspiring to carry out the violent overthrow of a foreign government, in violation of US law,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “The United States strongly condemns such conspiracies. With these serious charges, the United States is committed to holding them fully responsible for their actions.”
Assistant US attorney Charles Kovats of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota is prosecuting this case, with assistance from Richard Scott, a deputy chief in the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. A number of other US attorney’s offices, including those in the District of Maryland and the Western District of Texas provided critical support during the investigation.