MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Tennessee man was charged Friday in last month's failed attempt to overthrow the government in the West African nation of Gambia.
Alagie Barrow, 41, of Lavergne, Tennessee, is the third American of Gambian descent to be charged in U.S. District Court in Minnesota. He's charged with breaking a law that makes it illegal to take military action against a country with which the U.S. is "at peace." He's also charged with one count of conspiracy to possess a firearm to further a crime of violence.
Barrow is in federal custody. His attorney, Joe Friedberg, said he just met his client Friday and had no immediate comment on the charges. Friedberg said a detention hearing will be held next week.
The charges stem from a Dec. 30 coup attempt in the former British colony, which came as longtime President Yahya Jammeh was away.
Two others have been charged. Papa Faal, 46, of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to two counts Thursday. Faal admitted that he participated in the attack on Gambia's State House, where he said he believes many of his co-conspirators died. Another man, Cherno Njie, 57, of Austin, Texas, made his initial court appearance in Baltimore earlier this month and is expected to face charges in Minnesota. Prosecutors say Njie was a financier and would have served as the interim leader of Gambia had the coup succeeded.
Court documents say Faal and Barrow are dual citizens of the U.S. and Gambia; Njie is a U.S. citizen.
According to charging documents, Barrow and two others were the primary authors of an operations plan to take over the Gambian government. He participated in conference calls with other group members before leaving the U.S. for Gambia in December as part of the "advance party." Prosecutors say he was responsible for bringing other group members to safe houses and he conducted reconnaissance of the State House.
Prosecutors say Barrow and Njie did not participate in the attack. According to the plan, Barrow, a former member of the Tennessee Army National Guard, was to escort Njie to the presidential palace after the coup.
According to an FBI affidavit, a search of Njie's home revealed a spreadsheet that suggested Barrow may have received more than $125,000 to support the operation. At Barrow's home, authorities found a book about planning a coup.
Human rights activists have long criticized the government in Gambia for targeting political opponents, journalists, and gays and lesbians. The U.S. government recently removed Gambia from a trade agreement in response to human rights abuses.
The U.S. denounced the coup attempt.
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