(JollofNews) – A Gambian activist has begun serving time in an American jail for his involvement in the December 2014 ill-fated plot to overthrow the Gambian regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
Banka Manneh, a US resident who is chairman of the Gambia Civil Society Associations, was sentenced in May to six-months in prison by a court in Minnesota for aiding and abetting in preparation of the failed coup. He was also given three years probation and US$200 fine.
Three other US-based Cherno Njie, Papa Faal, Banka Manneh and Alagie Saidy Barrow were also convicted by the same court after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Act and conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Mr Manneh is said to have surrendered to the US authorities over a week ago and is believed to be serving time in a Florida prison.
The men are the first to be prosecuted in 35 years by US authorities for violating the country’s Neutrality Act.
The coup saga in the Gambia unfolded during the early hours of December 30, 2014 when a group of men entered the Gambia to carry out the coup attempt, with the expectation that others in the country would join and assist them.
But as they attempted to storm the state house they were met with heavy gunfire from security forces, squashing the coup, and killing at least four assailants.
Investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its partners on Joint Terrorism Task Forces in multiple field offices later revealed that prior to departing for the Gambia, between August and October 2014, the conspirators purchased multiple firearms, including M4 semi-automatic rifles, and shipped them to the Gambia for use in the coup attempt. Members of the conspiracy also acquired night-vision goggles, body armor, ammunition, black military style uniform pants, boots, and other personal equipment.
It is estimated that over US$200,000 was spent on ammunition.
The FBI added that on 30th December 2014, a number of the co-conspirators from the US and Europe, met in the woods near the State House in Banjul, which is the home of the Gambian president, and split into two assault teams.
However, when one of the assault teams approached the State House and fired a shot into the air, the team began taking heavy fire from the guard towers.
Although numerous conspirators on the assault teams were killed or injured during the failed attempt to take control of the government building, some of the conspirators were able to flee the Gambia and ultimately returned to the US where they were arrested and charged.
Prosecutors added that while Banka Manneh did not travel to the Gambia, searches on his computer, phone and other documents that were seized after FBI agents raided his house revealed that he “participated in conference calls and exchanged planning documents with the other members of the conspiracy,” and “purchased two pistols and one rifle to equip co-conspirators participating in the coup.”
Investigations revealed that Mr Manneh was designated to serve as the international spokesman for the group. He also busied himself with post-coup planning a prepared a document titled “Transition Into the Third Republic”, which outlined a two-year interim period before elections would be held.
Mr Manneh also travelled to Senegal and Brussels, Belgium to lobby European Union officials to levy sanctions against the Gambia.