(JollofNews) – One of the armed men involved in last week’s abortive coup in the Gambia used an interview with US federal agents to give a detail account of their attempt to topple the 20-year old regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
Papa Faal, 46, and Cherno Njie, 57, were arrested last week in the US and charged for conspiring against a friendly nation and conspiring to possess firearms.
They were among a group of between 10 and 12 men from the US, Germany and the UK that lunched an armed attack at the presidential palace in Banjul and the strategic Denton Bridge.
Four of his colleagues including two Gambian residents in the US Njagga Jagne and former State Guards commander, Lt Colonel Lamin Sanneh, were killed during the shoot-out with soldiers loyal to the regime. Four others were reportedly taken captive and are currently detained at an unknown security post in Banjul.
Papa Faal and Cherno Njie fled the Gambia into neighbouring Senegal where they were picked up by FBI agents before being flown to the US.
In an interview with FBI investigators Mr Faal, a former US Army sergeant from Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota, gave a detail account of how they purchased weapons and ammunition including their plans to attack President Jammeh’s convoy over the Christmas and New Year to restore democracy to the Gambia and improve the lives of its people.
Mr Faal, AKA Fox, who lived in the US for 23 years told the FBI that he was invited in August 2014 by other conspirators in the US to join a movement to purportedly change the leadership of the Gambia. He said he agreed to join the movement which comprised of ex-US and Gambian soldiers because he had become disenchanted by the way Mr Jammeh was rigging elections and because of his concerns for the plight of the Gambian people.
In the preceding months, Mr Faal and his colleagues–all of Gambian descent- and avid shooters, had conference calls every other week in which they discussed their plans and address each other using code names such as Dave and Fox.
He further revealed that Housing Developer Cherno Njie Cherno Njie AKA Dave, who was their leader, bankrolled the movement and deposited thousands of dollars into their bank accounts to purchase arms and ammunition.
The group’s Operation Plan was stored online where only members of the conspiracy could view and Mr Faal said he did not believe that anyone outside the group including their wives, families and the US government knew about the coup attempt ahead of time.
Between August and October 2014, Mr Faal and two other members of the group based in the US each purchased eight M4 and AKM firearms at gun shops throughout the US.
Faal himself, an avid shooter who frequented the firing range, ‘legally’ purchased eight M4 semi-automatic rifles in Minnesota using US$6000 paid into his account by Cherno Njie and hid them in four 50 gallon barrels- two rifles per barrel-before stuffing clothing in the barrels around the disassembled weapons to conceal them.
One member of the group identified only as Subject two purchased most of the remainder of the equipment including body armours and ammunition, two pairs of night vision goggles, black military style uniform pants, boots and other personal equipment.
With the arms and ammunition safely in Banjul, Mr Faal said he left the US on 3 December via South African air and arrived in Senegal before travelling by road to the Gambia where he was later joined by other members of the group.
He added that although many members of the group had planned to go to the Gambia, only 10 to 12 men took the trip. Each of the men was given US$4000 to pay their bills while they are away in the Gambia.
Mr Faal said while in the Gambia with the rest of the group, they spoke via phone and rarely met with each other. They also began to implement their operations plan by conducting reconnaissance and mental dry runs of their plan.
He added that they had initially planned to ambush President Jammeh during his overland travels around Christmas and New Year’s Day with the help of 160 soldiers from the Gambia army. The plan entailed blocking the President Jammeh’s convoy and ambushing his vehicle. They planned to shot into the air to cause his body guards to flee and hope the president would surrender. He said they were prepared to shoot Mr Jammeh if he fired at them.
However, Mr Faal said they abandoned their plan to ambush Mr Jammeh after they found out that he was leaving the country on 26 December 2014. With Jammeh out of the country, the group decided to attack the presidential palace and Denton Bridge.
He added that Cherno Njie, their would be leader was expected to stay in a safe place until the State House was seized before he would meet the commander of the Gambian Army and convince him to have the army stand down and support the change in leadership.
Read the full text of the interview below.