Minnesota man pleads guilty to part in Gambia coup bid


A Minnesota man pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges in connection with a deadly coup attempt in the tiny African nation of Gambia in late December.

Papa Faal, 46, a former U.S. Army sergeant with ties to Gambia, was charged with conspiring to carry out a coup and a weapons violation. He pleaded guilty to both counts and was remanded into custody, according to court records.

Faal, from the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park, was accused in federal court in Minnesota of conspiring with Texas businessman Cherno Njie and others of trying to carry out a coup to make Njie interim leader of Gambia, a nation of about 1.8 million people surrounded on three sides by Senegal.

Njie, 57, a housing developer, is accused of leading and bankrolling plotters that attacked the presidential palace on Dec. 30 hoping to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh, who was out of the country, and restore democracy, court documents said.

Guards killed one group of attackers and the rest of the 10 to 12 conspirators fled, Faal to Senegal. He was interviewed by American officials in Senegal and questioned by FBI agents upon arrival back in the United States.

Faal has not lived in Gambia for 23 years. He told the FBI the plotters were of Gambian descent and most lived in the United States and Germany and he was approached by other conspirators in August, according to the criminal complaint.

Faal pleaded guilty to buying eight M4 semiautomatic rifles in Minnesota and breaking them down into component parts for shipment to Gambia without a license to do so.

Authorities found M4 manuals and receipts at Faal’s home along with Google satellite images of Gambia in a folder marked “top secret.”