What's happening in Niger? Here's what you should know
On October 4th, a team of 12 U.S. Army soldiers were ambushed by ISIS during a mission in Niger. Officials are currently trying to understand what exactly happened during and after the attack, and little has been released about the investigation. But here’s what we know so far about the goings-on in Niger.
The attack occurred on the Niger-Mali border and claimed the lives of four U.S. Army soldiers: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright. According to CNN, it’s estimated that 50 ISIS members were involved in the ambush.
The firefight lasted about 30 minutes before French Mirage jets flew in to disperse the attackers and reprieve the wounded Americans.
ABC News reports that the Defense Intelligence Agency stated that it is “highly likely” that the Greater Sahara branch of ISIS is responsible for the attack. Terror groups ISIS, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, and Boko Haram are all located in the area, but none have yet come forward to claim responsibility.
The U.S. Army Green Beret soldiers stationed in Niger are there as part of a counterterrorism mission that aims to train the Nigerien military to fight ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in and around their country. Rival terror groups are currently all fighting over routes between Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, according to The Wall Street Journal.
ISGS was founded in 2015 by former Al-Qaeda member Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi. According to the Pentagon, Syrian ISIS leaders have yet to recognize ISGS as an official ISIS branch, ABC News reports.
This group carries out small attacks on local pro-government and French/United Nations-connected military in Burkina Faso and Niger.
Currently, there are about 800 U.S. troops in Niger, and the U.S. has held a military presence in the country for five years.
What officials are trying to figure out is why Sgt. La David Johnson was left behind for 48 hours after the attack. Other members of government want answers about how French forces carried out the rescue and whether the U.S. soldiers were the actual target of the attack or were mistaken by ISIS for French forces.
The FBI is now involved in the investigation, and members of the American government, including Senator John McCain, are criticizing the Pentagon for its withholding of details. This backlash may lead to a larger Benghazi-like investigation if officials continue to hold back information.
More details are expected to be released in the following days.