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US Citizen Accused of Gambian Coup Involvement Denied Bail

FILE - Yahya Jammeh, president of Gambia, addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2014.

A man arrested in the United States in connection with a failed West African coup will remain behind bars as his case proceeds, at least for the moment.

A judge in the northern state of Minnesota said Thursday that Papa Faal, 46, was a flight risk. Prosecutors said Faal bought and shipped weapons to Gambia before traveling to the tiny West African nation to take part in an unsuccessful coup attempt December 30 against President Yahya Jammeh.

Faal and another U.S. citizen of Gambian descent, Cherno Njie, 57, of Texas, are both accused of conspiring to violate the Neutrality Act. That law makes it a crime for a U.S. citizen to help fight a foreign government with which the United States is not at war.

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger told Minnesota Public Radio that he could understand how some Gambian people in the U.S. might view Faal as a hero, but he said what Faal did was wrong.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the charges against both men highlight the importance the United States places on preventing its citizens from taking part in violence overseas.