US prosecutors have charged two men with conspiring to overthrow the government of Gambia, in the latest fall-out from last week’s failed coup attemptin the small West-African nation.
US-Gambian dual national Papa Faal and US resident Cherno Njie were arrested in the United States after they returned from Gambia, where they had travelled to help launch a 30 December coup attempt against President Yahya Jammeh’s government, according to the US Justice Department, which released the criminal complaint against the two men.
Faal, 46, was expected to make an initial appearance in court Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while Njie, 57, was to appear Monday in US District Court in Baltimore, Maryland.
“These defendants stand accused of conspiring to carry out the violent overthrow of a foreign government, in violation of US law,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
“The United States strongly condemns such conspiracies. With these serious charges, the United States is committed to holding them fully responsible for their actions.”
According to the criminal complaint, an FBI agent interviewed Faal, who described his own participation “as a member of a group of fighters responsible for the attempted coup”.
Faal also identified Njie as one of the coup’s leaders and main financiers, and told the FBI agent that “Njie was also planning to serve as the interim leader of The Gambia upon the successful completion of the coup.”
The men are charged with conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act, which prohibits US citizens or residents from taking up arms or plotting against a nation at peace with the United States, and conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Last month’s attack was repelled by the security forces, and at least three suspected attackers died during the fighting, according to unconfirmed reports.
On 1 January, strongman Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 20 years, blamed unidentified foreign dissidents and “terrorists” for the assault on his presidential palace.