US Soldier Missing in Niger Is Found Dead

Marie Harrington
October 7, 2017

The Department of Defense says one of the three US soldiers killed in an attack by Islamic extremists in Niger was from southwestern Ohio.

The death toll in the first fatal US military incident involving hostile fire in Niger has been raised to four, after the White House said the body of a USA soldier who went missing during an ambush has been found.

The attack by Mali-based militants in Niger's Tillaberi region also wounded eight Niger soldiers and two USA soldiers, according to a statement by Niger's Army Chief of Staff.

"The joint patrol was ambushed by terrorist elements in a dozen vehicles and on 20 motorbikes", Niger's Defense Ministry said in a statement. "This is about black market resources which terrorists use to gain revenue that helps them recruit, expand and export attacks", the official said. Initially, the government said three soldiers were killed and two wounded in the ambush. For years, the United States army has offered training to the Niger's soldiers to enable them to fight the Islamist militants that have dominated the North Africa region including Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.

USA officials described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows.

"Niger is an important partner of ours, we have a deep relationship with them", Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.

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Some officials originally suspected the attack was the work of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

According to the New York Times, the US troops are the first casualties to succumb to the attacks since the US Africa Command was set up in Niger.

A USA military official said the US military has been operating in that area to help the local forces fight terrorism and to disrupt these rat lines. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.

US President Donald Trump has been briefed by his chief-of-staff, John Kelly, about the attack, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad are putting together a 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force to fight the growing threat from extremists in the vast Sahel region.

In Niger, Washington has deployed around 800 soldiers, runs a drone base in the capital Niamey and is building a second in Agadez at a cost of around $100 million.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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