A U.S Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle hit an explosive device on Saturday while entering a firing range near Ouallam, Niger, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command said.
“There were four U.S. service members in the vehicle at the time of the IED detonation,” Air Force Christopher Karns told Task & Purpose. “At this time, neither the U.S. nor partner force is reporting any casualties. As a precaution, U.S. service members have been recovered to a secure location and are being evaluated.”
U.S. and Nigerien forces were conducting a training exercise at the time of the blast, Karns said. The vehicle involved is often used for explosive ordnance disposal work,
Stars and Stripes reporter John Vandiver first reported about the M-ATV incident on Saturday.
The blast happened in the same region where four U.S. soldiers were killed in an Oct. 4, 2017 ambush. An AFRICOM investigation into the ambush found that the “advise and assist” missions that U.S. troops were conducting in Niger had fallen victim to mission creep.
“Exercised aggressively, with U.S. advisors accompanying platoons, squads, and fire teams, the direct actions of our partners cannot be distinguished from U.S. direct action,” the investigation found. “U.S. provisions of 'advice and assistance' look more like U.S. direct combat operations that are not reported that way to Congress or acknowledged that way to the public.”
Karns said U.S. troops work with Nigerien forces to help them fight terrorists.
“Building and strengthening partnership capacity and helping African partners counter violent extremist organizations remain key areas of focus for US Africa Command,” Karns said. “If the threat on the continent is not addressed today it could present an expanded security challenge for the U.S. and others tomorrow.”
UPDATE: This story was updated on June 9 after AFRICOM confirmed the U.S. vehicle hit a bomb.