Papa Faal, 46 – a dual U.S. and Gambian citizen who lives in Brooklyn Center – and Cherno Njie, 57 – a U.S. citizen of Gambian decent living in Texas – are charged with conspiring to violate the Neutrality Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Justice Department says they bought guns and other military equipment for a planned coup, then tried to violently take the country's State House.
Faal will make his first court appearance Monday in Minneapolis.
Details about the attempted coup
Court documents say Faal and Njie were among nearly a dozen co-conspirators who traveled to Gambia to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh, expecting others in the nation to join the effort.
According to the charges:
On Dec. 30, 2014, Faal and the other co-conspirators gathered in the woods near the State House, where President Yahya Jammeh lives, in an attempt to take over the facility. They used weapons – including M4 semi-automatic rifles – and other military equipment, they had shipped to Gambia prior to the attempted coup.
But when they approached the State House, they came under heavy gunfire from the guard towers.
Many of the co-conspirators were injured or killed, but Faal and Njie were able to escape and return to the U.S., where they were eventually arrested. Njie, the financier and leader of the conspiracy, was planning to be the interim leader of Gambia had the coup been successful.
Gambia's pro-opposition Freedom newspaper reported last week at least four of the co-conspirators had been killed. In the days after the attack, dozens of military personnel and civilians were arrested, American Foreign Press noted.
The attempted coup came while Jammeh was away, according to the BBC. He returned to Gambia on Dec. 31, 2014, and accused foreign dissidents based in the U.S., Germany and Britain of the attack, but denied it was an attempt to overthrow him, TIME reported.
Jemmeh, who seized power in 1994, has long been accused of not tolerating any opposition, the BBC says. He has won several elections since taking power, but critics have said they were not free or fair.
The official charges against Faal and Njie: making an expedition against a friendly nation from the U.S., and conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.