Senior Airman Papa Faal, a 459th Military Personnel Flight relocations specialist, became a U.S. citizen on December 6, 2005. He is originally from The Gambia, a small West African country covering an area of no more than 4,400 square miles. Papa Faal, a resident of Brooklyn Park, Minn., is among a half-dozen Gambian expatriates living in the United States who have been charged or accused of returning to their West African homeland in December to lead a failed coup attempt against the Gambia’s long-serving ruler, Yahya Jammeh. Faal has pleaded guilty to his involvement in federal court. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. (Credit: Capt. Nikki Credic/ US Air Force)

(JollofNews) – A United States federal judge in St. Pauls, Minnesota, will on Thursday afternoon pass sentence on  four US-based Gambian men involved in the December 2014 ill-fated plot to overthrow the Gambian regime of President Yahya Jammeh.

Cherno Njie, Papa Faal, Banka Manneh and Alagie Saidy Barrow have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act and conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Each man faces up to five years in prison for conspiring to violate the Neutrality Act, a

Cherno M. Njie
Cherno Njie

1794 law that bars US citizens from taking up arms against any foreign country with which the United States is at peace, and up to 20 years for buying weapons to do so.

Investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and its partners on Joint Terrorism Task Forces in multiple field offices revealed that the men had conspired with others and Cherno Njie, Alagie Saidy Barrow and Papa Faal had travelled from the United States to the Gambia for the purpose of overthrowing the Gambian government.

According to the criminal complaint, approximately 10-12 members of the conspiracy entered the Gambia to carry out the coup attempt, with the expectation that others in the country would join and assist them.

Prior to departing for the Gambia, between August and October 2014, the conspirators

Jammehs Weapons
President Jammeh inspecting some of the guns the men used in the attack

purchased multiple firearms, including M4 semi-automatic rifles, and shipped them to the Gambia for use in the coup attempt. Members of the conspiracy also acquired night-vision goggles, body armor, ammunition, black military style uniform pants, boots, and other personal equipment.

It estimated that over US$200,000 was spent on ammunition. Most of the resources were provided by Cherno Njie, an Austin based Gambian born millionaire , who  bankrolled the coup attempt. Court documents say the conspirators’ plan was for Mr Njie to take power if the coup succeeded.

The FIB added that on 3oth December 2014, a number of the co-conspirators, including Faal and Barrow, met in the woods near the State House in Banjul, which is the home of the Gambian president, and split into two assault teams.  While the men headed for Banjul, Mr Njie who has no military experience stayed in a safe house.

However, when one of the assault teams approached the State House and fired a shot into the air, the team began taking heavy fire from the guard towers.

Although numerous conspirators on the assault teams were killed or injured during the failed attempt to take control of the government building, Njie, Barrow and Faal were able to flee the Gambia and ultimately returned to the US where they were  arrested and charged.

Papa Faal on the left and Banka Manneh on the far right at the prayer session
 Banka Manneh (far right) at the prayer session

Prosecutors added that while Banka Manneh did not travel to Gambia, searches on his computer, phone and other documents that were seized after FBI agents raided his house revealed that he “participated in conference calls and exchanged planning documents with the other members of the conspiracy,” and “purchased two pistols and one rifle to equip co-conspirators participating in the coup.”

Manneh was designated to serve as the international spokesman for the group.

Meanwhile the Gambian community in Minneapolis Tuesday held a prayer session for the men which was attended by renown Gambian activists including Imam Baba Leigh, Dr Amadou Janneh and Coach Pa Samba Jow.

Click the link below to read a full report of the coup plot