Cherno Njie

(JollofNews) – A United States based Gambian housing developer who masterminded the December 30th 2014 ill-fated coup plot against the former Gambian regime of Yahya Jammeh has been freed from a US jail.

Cherno Njie of Austin,Texas, was released last week after completing a one-year term imposed on him last May by a  federal judge in St. Pauls, Minnesota. He was also fined US$10,000 and will be subjected to a three years probation.

Mr Njie who bankrolled the coup plot and was supposed to be the interim leader of the transition government, had pleaded guilty together with a group of other US-based Gambians including, Papa Faal, Banka Manneh and Alagie Saidy Barrow to conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act and conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

The men who are the first to be prosecuted in 35 years by US authorities for violating the country’s Neutrality Act had all faced maximum penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

The coup saga in the Gambia unfolded during the early hours of December 30, 2014 Njie, Barrow, Faal and nine others entered the Gambia to carry out the coup attempt, with the expectation that others in the country would join and assist them.
But as they attempted to storm the state house they were met with heavy gunfire from security forces, squashing the coup, and killing at least four assailants.

Investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its partners on Joint Terrorism Task Forces in multiple field offices later revealed that prior to departing for the Gambia, between August and October 2014, the conspirators 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 is 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 FBI added that on 30th 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, Barrow and 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.