Papa Faal, code name "Fox," is a Gambian and US citizen, married father, ITT Tech instructor, and US veteran. And last month, he allegedly tried and failed to overthrow Gambia President Yahya Jammeh, the Daily Beast reports. Yesterday, Faal, 46, faced Neutrality Act violation charges in a Minnesota courtroom, while Gambian-American businessman Cherno Njie—Faal's alleged co-conspirator and the man who was planning to rule Gambia in Jammeh's place—faced his own charges in Maryland. Faal, Njie, and about a dozen others wanted to "restore democracy to The Gambia and improve the lives of its people," Faal (who still has family there) told the FBI. Njie allegedly handled the money and organized his plotters—including vets of both the US and Gambian armies, adds Minnesota Public Radio—who bought armor, ammo, and night-vision equipment. Faal allegedly bought and shipped rifles to Gambia, concealed in barrels.
The conspirators thought Gambia's military would join the coup and abandon Jammeh. They'd then take over with no harm to Gambians, and Njie would come out from hiding and take his place, the Wall Street Journal reports. It didn't work out that way. At the State House in Gambia, the plotters split into "Alpha" and "Bravo" teams. Alpha fired a shot to scare the guards—extra ones were on duty—but the team was instead rewarded with heavy fire that killed the team, Faal says. Bravo members who weren't shot fled, including Faal, who went to Senegal and turned himself into the US Embassy. For his part, Jammeh claims the coup was the work of German, American, and British dissidents, USA Today reports. "I live for the Gambia,'' he says. "I die for the Gambia.'' (Read more Gambia stories.)