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Two U.S. Citizens Charged With Failed Gambia Coup Attempt

Two men from the U.S. have been charged with playing a role in a failed nighttime coup attempt in the tiny West African nation of Gambia, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Cherno Njie, 57, of Austin, Texas and Papa Faal, 46, of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota – both of Gambian descent - are accused of traveling from the U.S. last month and joining a team of up to a dozen men who tried to seize the presidential resident on December 30 armed with semi-automatic rifles and night vision goggles.

Njie, the FBI says, believed that he would be interim leader of the country had the coup succeeded. Investigators say Faal agreed to join the plot "because he had become disenchanted with the way the Gambian president was 'rigging elections'," even though he had not lived in Gambia for 23 years.

When the first shot was fired by one of the plotters, guards responded with heavy gunfire, U.S. prosecutors said. Some of the conspirators were shot and killed, but Nije and Faal escaped and returned to the U.S. where they were arrested. Documents filed in court include photographs showing the layout of the presidential compound. Prosecutors say they were found in a file folder belonging to the coup plotters.

Gambia is surrounded by Senegal except for a small stretch of coast facing the Atlantic Ocean. President Yahya Jammeh was out of the country during the attempted coup but has since returned.

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– Pete Williams