March 18, 2010 / 2:09 PM / 9 years ago

Gambia accuses former army officials of coup plot

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BANJUL, March 18 (Reuters) - Top Gambian security officials smuggled guns and mercenaries into the country last year as part of a drug-funded plot to overthrow the government, according to charges filed by Gambia’s Attorney General on Thursday.

The alleged conspiracy in the tiny West African nation marks the second suspected coup attempt against the government of President Yahya Jammeh in less than five years.

Seven defence and intelligence personnel, including former Chief of Defence Staff Lang Tombong Tamba, "procured arms and ammunition, equipment and mercenaries from Guinea and other places to stage a coup d’etat," the charges filed with Gambia’s High Court said.

Three local businessmen were also charged.

The accusations come after a wave of arrests and high-profile sackings in the West African state, a sliver of land along the river of the same name sandwiched between northern and southern Senegal that has been a rare example of stability in the region.

President Jammeh, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994, also said in 2006 authorities had uncovered an attempt by top military officials to overthrow him.

Thursday’s charges against the suspected coup plotters allege the group engaged in drug trafficking to fund the operation, which they added would have been launched from nearby Guinea-Bissau.

Drug smuggling is a growing problem in the region and United Nations officials believe the zone is being used as a trans-shipment point for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe.

Tamba was cited as a ringleader for the coup plot.

(Reporting by Pap Saine; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Mark Trevelyan)

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