By Armin Rosen, Jan. 17, 2015
Earlier this month, two Americans were charged with violating the Neutrality Act for their participation in a Dec. 30, 2014, attempted coup that failed to topple the government of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, one of the most oppressive regimes on earth.
The Neutrality Act makes it illegal for Americans to plot the violent takeover of any country with which the US is not at war. The two men who were charged, Cherno Njie and Papa Faal, a successful businessman living in Texas and a former US Army officer living in Minnesota, respectively, were allegedly among a dozen or so conspirators who had plotted to topple Jammeh.
Another one of the alleged plotters was Njaga Jagne, a member of the Kentucky National Guard, who was killed at Jammeh’s headquarters.
According to a federal criminal complaint, the plotters were able to transfer eight legally purchased M4 rifles to Gambia. They had hoped high-level collaborators inside of the Gambian military and presidential guard would effect a quick and orderly change in leadership.
A few of the plotters even made it inside the state house, the seat of government power in the Gambian capital of Banjul. But when the bullets started flying, the hoped-for defections didn’t come. Although Njie and Faal fled to neighboring Senegal, and later surrendered to US authorities, four of the plotters were killed inside the state house.
One of them was Jagne, a captain in the 149th infantry battalion of the Kentucky National Guard. He had moved to the US in 1993 and was deployed to Iraq twice, between May 2006 and April 2007 and between December 2010 and June 2011. Jagne had served as a platoon leader during the second deployment, according to the Kentucky National Guard.
He was one of 75 service members to receive American citizenship during a ceremony in Baghdad on Nov. 11, 2006, Veterans Day. A photo from the ceremony published in the February 2007 issue of The Bluegrass Guard, the Kentucky National Guard’s newsletter, shows him as a beneficiary of President George W. Bush’s 2002 executive order expediting the citizenship process for service members, holding his certificate while standing next to Gen. George W. Casey, commander of the multinational force in Iraq.