Three US commandos killed in Niger ambush
Three US Army special operations commandos were killed on Wednesday and two others were wounded when they came under fire from suspected al-Qaeda militants in southwest Niger.
The deaths marked the first American casualties in the mission, in which US forces provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces in their efforts against violent extremists.
US officials told the Associated Press the two wounded soldiers were taken to Niamey, the capital, and were in stable condition.
The officials said the commandos, who were Green Berets, were likely attacked by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militants.
In a statement, US Africa Command said the forces were with a joint US and Nigerien patrol 120 miles north of Niamey, near the Mali border, when they came under hostile fire.
Namatta Abubacar, an official for the region of Tillaberi in Niger, said five Nigerien soldiers were among the dead.
A Niger diplomatic source told Reuters the attackers had come from Mali.
The White House said President Donald Trump was notified about the attack on Wednesday night as he flew aboard Air Force One from Las Vegas to Washington.
African security forces backed by Western troops are stepping up efforts to counter jihadist groups forming part of a growing regional insurgency in the poor, sparsely populated deserts of the Sahel.
“These militants have proven remarkably resilient, exploiting local and/or ethnic grievances to embed themselves into communities as well as political borders and differences to escape capture,” J. Peter Pham, a vice president at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center in Washington, told the New York Times.
“It was no accident that this attack took place near Niger’s border with Mali, an area that has seen numerous incidents in recent years.”
The Foreign Office advises against travel to Niger and Mali.