The joint US Niger team that was initially sent on a routine mission routine mission to “meet local tribal leaders” in a Niger village died in a so-called ambush while entering the community.
The U.S. military believes someone in a Niger village may have tipped off attackers to the presence of U.S. commandos and Nigerien forces in the area. According to an official, the joint U.S. and Niger patrol was asked to help a second American commando team that had been hunting for a senior member of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb believed to be in the area.
US Army Green Berets and about 30 Nigerien forces stopped in a village for an hour or two to get “food and water” after conducting an overnight reconnaissance mission. After they left, they were ambushed by about 50 heavily armed enemy fighters, who also killed four Nigerien fighters and wounded two Americans and several Nigerien troops.
Under the ‘peacekeeping’ rules, 1.000 US troops in Niger can accompany local forces on missions when “the chances of enemy contact are unlikely.” The official said the decision to change the joint team’s mission may have met those rules because the AQIM insurgent was no longer there, but those are some of the questions the ongoing investigations will answer.
US Military officials believe the ‘intelligence mission’ went well during the night. But on their way back to their base in the morning, the U.S. and Niger troops stopped at a village about 85 kilometers (50 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.
After getting supplies and meeting with tribal leaders, the joint patrol left the village. It is at that point, the official said, that the U.S. believes someone in the village alerted Al-Qaeda that American and Niger forces were in the area.
The enemy fighters attacked on motrocycles, carrying rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, setting off a long and complex battle.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday the US special forces unit didn’t call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy. And he acknowledged that many questions linger about the assault.
Those questions, said the defense official, will include who authorized the decision to change the team’s mission, as well as why it took so long to evacuate the wounded and why one of the killed US soldiers was missing for two days before his body was recovered.
AP / AA Magnum Analyst Blog News Site 2017.