Researchers on the ground probe deadly ambush of Niger
Eye-witnesses give account of how they found Sgt. La David Johnson’s body after the attack; Kristin Fisher has the details for ‘Special Report.’
The american forces in Niger were the targets of yet another terrorist ambush, in December, an attack published by the U.S. Africa Command on Wednesday — the latest revelation to come to the middle of the consequences of a deadly October and ambush as well as lawmakers increasingly question the U.S. mission in the African country.
U. S. Africa Command said the Dec. 6 ambush, in which 11 ISIS fighters were killed and no AMERICAN or Nigerien troops were injured, happened in the Lake Chad Basin area during a mission to ‘ set the conditions for a future partner-operations against violent extremist organizations in the region.”
“A combined force of Nigerien and AMERICAN military members came under fire from the formation of violent extremists,” Africa Command said in a statement to Fox News. “We reviewed 11 enemy killed in action, including two wearing suicide vests, and one weapons cache was destroyed during this mission.”
An official at the New York Times on condition of anonymity, said it was one of the first important steps for the AMERICAN troops back in the field since the Oct. 4 ambush.
The official said the Green Berets are helping Nigerien troops on a multi-day operation in the beginning of December in the area of Diffa, a town near the country’s border with Nigeria. Their goal was clearly a potentially hostile area, so that the Nigeriens could set up a base there, but it is not clear whether that base was ever built, the New York Times added, citing the official.
The attack was not mentioned in his testimony before Congress this month by Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of Africa Command, but a senior House Republican aide told the New York Times that lawmakers were made aware of it in December, shortly after it happened.
The incident followed an October attack in which four AMERICAN soldiers were killed after their convoy in Africa was hit by a rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine gun fire.
About 50 Muslim extremists attacked the group of AMERICAN and Nigerien troops in that attack wounded two additional Americans dead and 10 Nigeriens.
The team reportedly was in an unarmored truck when the ambush occurred on a return route from the capital Niamey. The group was raided by ISIS-affiliated militants traveling with the car, and the terrorists were probably tipped off by local villagers.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said air support was not requested for the attack area until an hour after the ambush began. It took two French Mirage fighter jets, 30 minutes to respond to the request, and the jets were not the overhead to two hours after the start of the battle.
After the deadly ambush made headlines, several lawmakers expressed concern with the decisions that lead to the attack — while others in Washington admitted surprised there were AMERICAN troops in Niger.
Dunford also said after the attack that the military still need to investigate various matters, including: whether the U.S. had enough intelligence and equipment for the operation, or there was a planning failure and why it took so long to recover the body of Sgt. La David Johnson.
The 25-year-old body was not found until two days after the ambush. Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson 39; and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, the others were killed.
Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, a former u.s. Special Operations in Africa commander, told the New York Times on Wednesday, there are about 10 instances of Us troops and their partners attacked in Niger and West Africa between 2015 and 2017, with those commands, causing no American casualties.
AMERICAN troops are in Niger for more than 20 years, and a joint special operations task force was established by the united states in 2008.
In 2011, U.S. and French forces set up a counter-terrorism force in the country, led by the French, with 4,000 troops and 35,000 Nigerien troops. There are now 800 U.S. troops in Niger and 6,000 AMERICAN troops in 53 countries in Africa, according to Dunford.
But the presence of American soldiers in Niger has reignited the debate about the Authorization for Use of Military Force public law after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. At issue is the question of whether the law gives the president the authority to take action against all terrorist organizations, not only Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.