(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth White with 3ID RSSB/Released)
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."
Four heroic soldiers killed nearly two years ago when they were ambushed by more than 100 ISIS fighters in Niger have posthumously received valor awards, defense officials announced on Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright and Sgt. La David T. Johnson have both been awarded the Silver Star, a defense official said. Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black and Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson have both received the Bronze Star with "V" device.
They were killed on Oct. 4, 2017 near the village of Tongo Tongo.
Two other special operators involved with the mission will receive the Silver Star; one will receive the Bronze Star with "V" device; one will receive the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device; and one will receive the Army Commendation Medal with "C" device, said Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Candice Tresch.
The Pentagon said on Thursday it has started a new, "narrowly-scoped" review of a deadly 2017 ambush in Niger, in which four U.S. soldiers were killed, to see whether additional punishments were needed.
The ambush, carried out by a local Islamic State affiliate, brought increased scrutiny of the U.S. counter-terrorism mission in the West African country.
A Pentagon report released late last year found that a series of individual and organizational failures, including a lack of training and situational awareness, contributed to the ambush. While no punishments were made public, lawmakers have expressed concern that junior officers could be blamed for the incident.
"Acting Secretary (Patrick) Shanahan has initiated a new, narrowly-scoped review into the Niger incident," Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Candice Tresch said. She said a four-star flag officer would lead the review.
Some current and former officials have expressed surprise at the decision to take a fresh look at the incident, particularly after the amount of public scrutiny the previous report received.
President Donald Trump's handling of condolence messages to the families of the dead U.S. soldiers was criticized by lawmakers in Washington and raised the profile of the deadly incident.
On Tuesday, Shanahan faced pointed questions from Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) about when he will decide which service members should be reprimanded for the ambush and which troops should receive awards for their heroism during the battle.
"When I came into this role … [former Defense Secretary James Mattis] had convened a review and that recommendation was brought to me," Shanahan said. "I did not find that sufficient, so I convened my own review so I can ensure from top to bottom there is the appropriate accountability."
A senior Special Forces officer has been pulled from his leadership role in a security force assistance brigade which was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan later this month, apparently over his involvement in the 2017 Niger ambush, Politico reports.