Three U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers were killed and two others wounded on Wednesday in an ambush that took place in the West African country of Niger, according to a report from Fox News.
Both Green Berets who were wounded are expected to pull through, according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the attack. One of the soldiers initially had “life-threatening” injuries but has since stabilized. The other had serious injuries.
The official explained that a squad of eight to 10 soldiers was on a routine patrol while training Nigerian forces when they were ambushed in a rural area approximately 125 miles north of Niger’s capital, Niamey, near the border with Mali. Africa Command says the U.S. forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces in their efforts against violent extremists.
Niger, a former French colony, is one of the poorest nations in the world. In April, the State Department issued a travel warning advising American citizens against visiting the landlocked country’s border regions, including the area where the ambush took place.
“Due to security concerns and travel restrictions, the U.S. Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in remote and rural areas is very limited. There is a high threat of kidnapping by terrorist groups including AQIM, which has kidnapped Westerners and threatened U.S. citizens in Niger.”
With several ISIS-affiliated groups active in the area, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), it is unclear exactly which one conducted the attack.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Trump had been briefed on the ambush by Chief of Staff John Kelly.
In 2013, AQIM was linked to a hostage crisis at a desert oil complex in Algeria, near the Libyan border. Hundreds of people, mostly Algerians, were taken hostage. The Algerian army responded by increasing its presence in the area.
The website of the British government includes a list of terror incidents known to have taken place in Niger in recent years:
- March 6, 2017: A terrorist attack at Wanzarbé, southwest Niger, resulted in the deaths of five Nigerien soldiers.
- Feb. 22, 2017: An attack on the Nigerien army in the Tillabéri region resulted in the deaths of 16 soldiers and injuries to 17.
- Oct. 17, 2016: A high-security prison near the border between Niger and Mali was attacked.
- Oct. 14, 2016: An American aid worker was kidnapped in Abalak, a province of the region of Tahoua 350 km northeast of Niamey.
- Oct. 6, 2016: An attack by violent extremists on a Malian refugee camp in Tazalit, near the Malian border, resulted in the deaths of 22 Nigerien soldiers.
- June 2016: An attack by Boko Haram on the town of Bosso left 32 dead and many more injured or displaced.
- Feb. 8, 2015: An explosion in the town of Diffa resulted in several deaths and injuries.
- Feb. 6, 2015: Nigerien and Chadian military forces were attacked by Boko Haram in the towns of Bosso and Diffa.
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