According to the New York Times, at least four members of the U.S. Army Special Forces contingent popularly known as the Green Berets were killed during an ambush in Niger. In a previous report published on Thursday, the Times indicated three Green Berets were killed among a reconnaissance patrol consisting of nearly a dozen Americans and their Nigerian soldier trainees. The team’s leaders had apparently told their superiors that the operation was “low risk” in nature, as they believed there was little chance of encountering hostile activity 120 miles north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.
Military officials familiar with the incident told the Times they believe the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda forces from the nearby West African country of Mali. Per the latest update, American commanders aren’t entirely sure how the fourth Green Beret was killed:
It was not clear whether the American was captured and killed by militants or whether he had been separated during the fighting that erupted on Wednesday…
In the hours following the attack when it became clear that the soldier was missing, additional troops from the Joint Special Operations Command were rushing to try to help find him, according to American officials.
The firefight lasted roughly 30 minutes and involved less than a dozen United States troops and more than 20 Nigerien soldiers. The official said they ran into a large group of militants traveling in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, known as technicals, that took them by surprise. United States drones were in the area, but it is unclear how close they were at the time of the attack given the mission’s perceived low risk.
Pentagon officials are reportedly still in “shock” following the incident, which resulted in the first combat deaths suffered by American forces in an expanding counterterrorism mission in the region.
(Via New York Times)