4th U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier killed In Niger, US Military Confirms

by Samuel Abasi Posted on October 6th, 2017

The U.S. military said today, Friday, that a fourth U.S. soldier was killed during an attack this week in Niger. They said the soldier’s body was found Friday after an extensive search. Military officials said the soldier went missing after a deadly ambush on Wednesday during a joint U.S.-Niger patrol.

Three other U.S. soldiers were already confirmed dead after the attack. A U.S. defense official told VOA on Thursday that the soldiers killed were members of the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as Green Berets.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although U.S. officials say they suspect that a local branch of Islamic State was responsible.

Niger’s army said the joint patrol of U.S. and Nigerien soldiers was ambushed by 40 to 50 militants in vehicles and on motorcycles. AFRICOM said the attack took place about 200 kilometers north of Niger’s capital, Niamey, not far from the Niger-Mali border.

Four members of Nigerien security forces were also killed during Wednesday’s attack. Eight Nigerien soldiers and two U.S. troops were wounded.

Various Islamist militant groups operate in Niger, with Nigeria-based militants carrying out attacks in eastern Niger and Algeria-based al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operating in the west along with pockets of Islamic State fighters.

Emmanuelle Lachaussee, an official at the French Embassy in Washington, said that French forces helped evacuate the U.S. soldiers after the assault.

The United States has about 800 service members in Niger to provide support for the U.S. Embassy and counterterrorism training for government forces battling Islamist militant groups.

Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie Jr. told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that America has increased its military presence in Niger in recent years, calling the U.S.-Niger military relationship “a very good success story.”

He cautioned, however, that U.S. troops remain at risk during their missions in the African nation, adding that the troops killed Wednesday died “in combat.”

3 U.S. Army Special Forces Troops killed In Niger Ambush

“We can confirm reports that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger,” said a spokesman.for  U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).  Five soldiers from Niger and three U.S. Army Special Forces troops were killed and two wounded in an ambush on a joint patrol in southwest Niger, near the Niger/Mali border, on Wednesday, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials.

The five Green Berets were attacked while on a routine patrol in an area known to have a presence of campainers, including from al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Islamic State, a U.S. official told reporters.

It was unclear who fired on the U.S. and U.S.-backed forces, the official said. Those forces were not patrolling the area with any specific objective, such as a high-value target or rescuing a hostage, the official added.

Namatta Abubacar, an official for the region of Tillaberi in Niger, said five Nigerien soldiers were among the dead.

A Niger diplomatic source said the attackers had come from Mali and had killed several soldiers, without saying whether any of the U.S. troops stationed in the West African country were among the victims.

U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed by telephone on the attack by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly while Trump flew back on Air Force One from Las Vegas, where he had been visiting victims and first responders affected by Sunday’s mass shooting.

RFI said earlier on Wednesday a counter-attack was underway.

African security forces backed by Western troops are stepping up efforts to counter jihadist groups forming part of a growing regional campain in the poor, sparsely populated deserts of the Sahel.

A relatively new militant group called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has claimed some of the attacks.

Geoff D. Porter, head of North Africa Risk Consulting, said that any confirmation of Islamic State’s role in Wednesday’s strike would lead to a strategic shift from Libya towards the Sahel band, stretching eastwards from Senegal to Chad.

“The emphasis … will now shift south,” he said.

Photo: 3 Green Berets killed, 2 wounded in Niger ambush. U.S. officials said the soldiers, all Green Berets, were likely attacked by al Qaeda militants

The U.S. Africa Command has hundreds of soldiers deployed across the region, including at an air facility in Agadez, and offers training and support to Niger’s army in aspects such as intelligence gathering and surveillance.

U.S. Africa Command Statement on Situation in Niger:

“U.S. Africa Command can confirm reports that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger.  We are working to confirm details on the incident and will have more information as soon as we can confirm facts on the ground.

U.S. Forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region. One aspect of that is training, advising and assisting the Nigeriens in order to increase their ability to bring stability and security to their people.”

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