Niger Villagers Set Up Ambush of US Soldiers
U.S. intelligence officials increasingly believe the militant ambush in Africa that led to the deaths of four American soldiers was the result of a setup by local villagers sympathetic to the jihadists.
On October 4, four Green Berets were killed in Niger when a local affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group executed a surprise attack. Details on the attack have since been slow to trickle in.
According to NBC News, U.S. officials briefed on the matter believe the militants were likely tipped off by at least one local villager.
Almou Hassane, the mayor of Tongo Tongo, the village at the center of the attack, told the U.S. government-sponsored news organization Voice of America that villagers sympathetic to the Islamic State group may have delayed the Green Berets, giving the militants time to prep.
“The attackers, the bandits, the terrorists have never lacked accomplices among local populations,” he said.
Amid accusations that the military was withholding information about the deadly ambush, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford conducted a news conference on Monday to offer more details on how events unfolded.
“We owe you more information. More importantly, we owe the families of the fallen more information,” Dunford told reporters.
“Did the mission change?” he said. “It’s a fair question.”
On October 3, 12 members of the U.S. Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien soldiers on a mission to an area near Tongo Tongo, a remote village.
On October 4, the small coalition of Nigerian and American soldiers met with local leaders to gather intelligence information. A few soldiers stayed back to guard the vehicles.
The troops started to grow suspicious when, as the meeting drew to a close, the local leaders appeared to stall and attempted to keep discussions going.
As U.S. troops began to walk back to their vehicles by mid-morning, they were ambushed by around 50 militants. Catching the Nigerian and American soldiers by surprise, the enemies carried out the attack with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.
According to Dunford, the group of local tribe fighters were likely affiliated with the Islamic State group.
An hour into the firefight, American troops requested backup. A drone few overhead within minutes of the request to asses the situation. Within an hour, a French Mirage fighter arrived. Later in the afternoon, a Nigerien quick reaction force along with French attack helicopters arrived at the scene.
French military Super Puma helicopters later evacuated U.S. soldiers wounded in the firefight. Soldiers killed in action were also transported away.
Altogether, four Green Berets lost their lives that day: Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Sgt. La David Johnson.
The attack set off a firestorm of unrelated controversy. The family of one of the slain soldiers, La David Johnson, accused the President Donald Trump of making inappropriate remarks during a condolence call, accusations that both Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly deny.
Key senators, including Democrat Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, subsequently admitted that they were unaware that American forces were even stationed in Niger.
The United States currently has around 1,000 troops operating in the country.